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Posted on June 7, 2002 (5755) By Rabbi Yissocher Frand | Series: | Level:

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of RabbiYissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torahportion: Tape # 21, The “Ins and Outs” of Mezzuzah. Good Shabbos!

Alshich Predates Golda on the Effects Our Enemies Have Upon Us

In this week’s Parsha we find the mitzvah of Mikrah Bikkurim, in which theJew — when he brings his first fruits to the Beis HaMikdash — recitesthe portion thanking HaShem for reaching this stage in life where he canbring Bikkurim. The Halacha requires that the recital of thanksgivingbegin, not just with the farmer’s harvest or even with the purchase of hisfarm. He needs to go back to the earliest roots of Jewish history, andthank HaShem for all that has transpired until this point [26:5-10].

One of the verses describing the historical background reads “…and theEgyptians did Evil to us (vaYare-u osanu haMitzrim) and caused ussuffering…”. The Alshich notes a grammatical “problem” with this verse. To say that the Egyptians did us harm, it would be more correct to sayvaYare-u Lanu haMitzrim (they did bad unto us). VaYare-u Osanu haMitzrimseems to imply they made US bad rather than they were bad to us.

The Alshich says, the verse is teaching us something important. Not onlywere the Egyptians bad to us, but they made us bad! As a result of livingin the decadent society of Egypt we were affected. We became worsepeople. You cannot expect to live in an immoral or amoral society,without that having an effect on the Jewish soul. This is indeed hintedat in the choice of words “vaYare-u Osanu“. Golda Meir once said she is willing to forgive the Arabs for the wars andfor the thousands of lost lives caused by the wars; but she is not willingto forgive the Arabs for what they did to the Jewish people. Living in a constant state of war, having to look even at every child andevery woman as a potential enemy, having to live with constant tension andthreat… all take a toll on the Jewish soul. Over the last 45 years, wehave perhaps become different — harder, crueler, less compassionate thana Jew really is. Instead of Israel exporting grapefruits and oranges,etc. now they are known for their Uzzis and Kfirs and other modernweaponry. This is a modern recurrence of the concept of “vaYare-u Osanu haMitzrim”. We became different people as a result of this experience; it affected ourcollective Neshama; and that was and is a tragedy.

Missing Samech and Strange Order Provide Insight

In this week’s Parsha we find the “Blessings and Curses” that weredelivered to the Jewish people on the mountains of Gerizim and Eval[27:11-26]. There are two note-worthy phenomenon in the appearance of thecurses.

First, each pasuk of the curses is separated from one another by theletter Samech (a mid-line break in the Torah scroll). There is oneexception to this pattern. Verses 19 and 20 have no Samech between them. Verse 19 is “Cursed be the one who corrupts the judgment of the stranger,the orphan, or the widow…” and verse 20 is “Cursed be the one who layswith his father’s wife…”.

A second feature to note in these curses is their sequence. We first havea series of societal laws (verses 15-19), then we have a series of Arayos(forbidden sexual relations) (verses 20-23), then we go back to societallaws (verses 24-26). It would seem more “logical” to either put all theArayos at the beginning or all the Arayos at the end; but not to mix themup with the societal laws.

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch says — these two observations shed light oneach other. The missing “Samech” is precisely between the first group ofsocietal laws and the first of the sexual prohibitions to teach us thatthere is to be no separation between the societal laws (how we treatwidows, orphans, elders, how we act in business, etc.) and how we behavein terms of our personal moral conduct.

There are those who argue that Arayos is a “victimless crime”. It hasnothing to do with society. “Who cares how one acts in the privacy ofone’s own bedroom” (as we constantly hear the argument being made)? Whatdoes that have to do with the social morality?

The Torah teaches us otherwise. There is no distinction and no separationbetween societal morality and sexual morality. “Cursed be the one wholies with his father’s wife, and with an animal, and with another male”,etc., etc., all affect society. [If there is any doubt about this, openup a newspaper!]

If on the other hand some think Arayos and matters between Man and G-d areimportant, but how one acts in business is less important (“as long as Igo to Daf Yomi, and drink Cholov Yisroel, and keep Taharas HaMishpacha,and am careful about Chadash, etc. who cares how I act in business?”). The Torah is teaching us that this too is a mistake. [Here too, the NewYork Times will prove this is not an uncommon phenomenon.]

Therefore, the Torah does not dichotomize, lumping separately societallaws and then sexual laws — it is all the same Torah, it is all the sameKedusha which Klal Yisroel is duty-bound to uphold.

We’ve Lost the Simple Peshat of a Critical Pasuk

The pasuk tells us “And all the nations of the Earth will see that theName of G-d is called upon you, and they will fear you” [28:10]. TheGemara in Berachos says this verse refers to the Tefillin shel Rosh.

The Vilna Gaon points out that this is not the “simple” interpretation ofthe verse. The simple interpretation of the verse is that when a Gentilesees how a Jew acts, and talks, and behaves in business, and in thesuper-market, and on the highway… then they will recognize that the Nameof G-d is called upon you. He should be able to discern right away, byobserving a Jew, “this is a holy person”. As a result of this, thereshould be awe, there should be reverence, there should be the phenomenonof “V’Yaru mi’mecha”.

Unfortunately we have lost the simple interpretation of the verse! Peoplewhen they see Jews, do not in general, see the Name of G-d proclaimed uponthem, and they do not have the reaction of awe and reverence. The reasonfor this is that here has been a breakdown in the emphasis on mitzvos BeinAdam La’Chaveiro. These mitzvos have to be treated as importantly as themitzvos Bein Adam La’Makom. And if not, something will be lacking in the”form” of what a Jew is supposed to be about and something will be lackingin the “form” of what the Jewish people are supposed to be about.


Mikrah Bikkurim–Reading of the portion relating to the First Fruits
Neshama–(Jewish) soul
Bein Adam LaMakom–(Ritual) commands affecting man to G-d relationship
Bein Adam LaChavero–(Societal) commands affecting man to man relations
Tefillin shel Rosh--Tefillin worn on head
Klal Yisroel–People of Israel
Arayos–forbidden sexual relationships
Daf Yomi–daily study of a Talmud folio
Cholov Yisroel–Milk whose production was supervised by a Jew
Taharas HaMishpacha–Laws of Family Purity (Niddah/Menstrual Observance)

Personalities & Sources:

R. Moses ben Chaim Alshich (1521-1593) — prominent Torah commentary (Toras Moshe) and authority on Jewish law; Safed.
Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch — (1808-1888) prominent Torah commentary and spiritual leader of German Jewish community; Frankfort am Main.
Vilna Gaon — Rabbi Eliahu ben Shlomo of Vilna (1720-1797). Greatest Torah scholar of the past two centuries, acronym G”RA.

Transcribed by David Twersky Assistance by Dovid Hoffman

This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah portion (#21). The corresponding halachic portion for this tape is: # 21, The “Ins and Outs” of Mezzuzah. other halachic portions for Parshas Ki Savo from the Commuter Chavrusah Series are:

  • Tape # 066 – Learning Hebrew: Mitzvah or Not?
  • Tape # 111 – Allocating Your Tzedaka Dollar
  • Tape # 157 – The Prohibition of Erasing G-d’s Name
  • Tape # 204 – Giving a Sefer Torah to a Non-Jew
  • Tape # 251 – Shidduchim and Parental Wishes
  • Tape # 294 – Geirim and Davening: Some Unique Problems
  • Tape # 340 – The Pushka in Halacha

Tapes or a complete catalogue can be ordered from:

Yad Yechiel Institute
Call (410) 358-0416 for further information.

Also Available: Mesorah / Artscroll has published a collection of Rabbi Frand’s essays. The book is entitled:

Rabbi Yissocher Frand: In Print

and is available through Project Genesis On-Line Bookstore: