These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah portion: Tape# 66, Learning Hebrew. Good Shabbos!
Linkage Between Sinas Chinom and Absence of Simcha [Between Needless Hatred and Absence of Joy]
At the end of the Tochacha [verses of rebuke in our Parsha], the pasuk [verse] says that these ninety-eight terrible curses come “as the result of your not having served the L-rd, your G-d, with joy and with good spirit (b’simcha u’vtuv leivav) when you had and abundance of everything” [Devorim 28:47]. This is an unbelievable statement. It seems harsh that such terrible curses should befall the Jewish people, just because people are lacking what seems to be a “hidur mitzvah” [glorification of a mitzvah, which is not absolutely necessary] of observing commandments in a state of joy.
Moreover, there is another difficulty: Our Sages tell us that the Tochacha that we find at the end of Sefer Vayikra [Leviticus] corresponded historically to the events of the First Temple period; this Tochacha — in Parshas Ki Savo — is referring to the period leading up to the destruction of the Second Temple. We all know that the Sages tell us that the reason the Second Beis HaMikdash was destroyed was because of baseless hatred (sin’as chinam). So these two teachings of Chaza”l, our Sages, seem contradictory. What was the reason for the destruction of the second Temple — Was it ‘baseless hatred’ or was it ‘failure to serve G-d with joy’?
Perhaps there is no contradiction. The Torah is referring to the underlying cause of the churban Bayis Sheni [destruction of the Second Temple]. The underlying cause of the churban Bayis Sheni was lack of Simcha [joy]. Failure to serve G-d with joy, in turn, leads to Sinas Chinam.
What does this mean? Chaza”l say that Talmidei Chachomim [scholars] increase peace in the world. How is this done? I once saw, written in the name of Rav Chatzkel Abramsky, z”tl, that a person who is a Talmid Chachom, in the real sense of the word, is a person who is at peace with himself. He is happy and satisfied with what he is accomplishing in life. As a result, he exudes his inner happiness and inner peace and that has an effect on other people.
When a person is happy with himself, the feeling is contagious. He is willing to share that peace and that happiness. Those feelings affect other people. When a person is not happy with himself, he is miserable and he dislikes other people’s happiness or success. Just as happiness rubs off, so too unhappiness rubs off and such a person cannot be satisfied with anyone else’s success.
Chaza”l are telling us that because you were not happy with your lot and you were not b’simcha, therefore the consequence is baseless hatred. When a person is not happy with himself, he cannot tolerate others having any kind of happiness either.
There is thus no contradiction. The Second Temple was destroyed because of Sinas Chinom, but Sinas Chinom results from people who are not happy with themselves, are not b’simcha, and are not doing mitzvos b’simcha.
A Tale of Two Tochachas
Chaza”l in many places contrast the Tochacha of Parshas Ki Savo with that of Parshas Bechukosai [end of Leviticus, as above]. There is a significant difference between the two. At the end of the Tochacha of Parshas Bechukosai, the Torah ends the Curse with words of consolation: “And I will remember for them my covenant with Yacov, and even my covenant with Yitzchak, and even my covenant with Avraham I will remember, and I will remember the Land” [Vayikra 26:42].
The Tochacha in this week’s Parshas Ki Savo, however, ends off on a terrible note. “The L-rd will return you to Egypt in boats along the path that I said to you ‘You will no longer see it’; and you will be offered for sale to your enemies for slaves and handmaidens and no one will even want to buy you(v’ein koneh).” [Devorim 28:68]. That is how the Tochacha ends.
This is strange. At least the Tochacha in Bechukosai ends on a positive note. G-d promises us that He’ll remember us. The Tochacha in Ki Savo ends with the ominous promise “You’ll be sold and people won’t even want to buy you”.
The Zohar HaKodosh writes: “This question was asked in the study hall – how come the Tochacha in this week’s parsha has no consolation at the end and the Tochacha in the book of Vayikra has a consolation at the end?”
Rav Shimeon Bar Yochai provides an answer. The Tochacha in Sefer Vayikra needs a consolation, but the Tochacha of this week’s Sedra needs no consolation, because included in the words of this week’s Tochacha we already have the biggest comfort.
What is this big comfort? The Zohar HaKodosh explains that the Tochacha in Parshas Bechukosai contains the terrible words “And if you will walk with me out of happenstance (keri) so too I will walk with you in a wrath of happenstance (keri)” [Vayikra 26: 27-28]. My relationship to you, G-d tells the Jewish people, will be reciprocal. If you show no concern for My ‘needs’, I will show no concern for your needs. This week’s portion, however, has the comforting expression “The L-rd will smite you…” [Devorim 28:27] – G-d Himself will smite you. This is this biggest consolation.
What is the Zohar HaKodosh saying? Rav Meir Bergman says that the worst thing that can happen to the Jewish people is that they can be left on their own. If Klal Yisroel, the Nation of Israel, acts as if the Ribono shel Olam [Master of the World] is not an integral part of their life, then the Ribono shel Olam’s response will be “I’m going to step back and I’m going to let Teva (nature, statistics) take its course. Teva will take care of you.” This is terrible. When that happens, the bond between G-d and Klal Yisroel is broken. There is no longer that closeness.
However, when the Ribono shel Olam ‘smites,’ even though it is a ‘klap,’ a smack – that in itself is a consolation, because at least we know that there is that relationship. Albeit it is a relationship of punishment, but it nevertheless is a relationship. Who feels more alone? The child who gets spanked when he misbehaves, or the child who has no father, Heaven forbid, to spank him?
The Tochacha in Bechukosai is the story of a people without a father, Heaven protect us; a father who stands in the background and lets whatever that happens, happen. The Tochacha of Ki Savo, however, is “The L-rd will Smite you” – I’ll ‘klap’ you, but at least you will know that there is someone concerned and taking care of you. Hitting you, but taking care of you, nevertheless.
The Talmud says in Brachos [7b]. “A Psalm of David (Mizmor l’Dovid) when he was fleeing before Avsholom, his son”. [Tehillim 3:1] The Gemara asks, should we call this a Mizmor (Psalm of praise) of Dovid? It should be called a Dirge of David (Kinah L’Dovid)! The Gemara answers that when G-d had prophesized to Dovid, “Behold I will raise up evil against you from the midst of your house” [Shmuel 2 12:11], Dovid feared that it would be a slave or a mamzer, but when he saw it was his own son, Avshalom, he was greatly relieved and said a Psalm to G-d.
Rabbi Yonason Eibshitz explains in his Yearos Dvash that for a slave or a Mamzer to rebel, that is Teva — that’s natural. The last thing Dovid HaMelech [The King] wanted was that his relationship with G-d would be a Teva relationship, subjecting him to the whims and statistics of nature. However, if his own son rebels, it is apparent that the punishment came from the ‘Hand of G-d’. The fact that G-d Himself is doing the punishing, Himself, is the biggest consolation and source of comfort.
That is why Chaza”l tell us that the Tochacha of Parshas Ki Savo needed no consolation. Since it was clear that G-d, Himself, was administering the punishment, we need no consolation. The Tochacha of Vayikra, however, where G-d ‘steps aside’ and lets nature take its course, needs consolation.
The Kotzker Rebbe, zt”l, once said that the month in which the most tragedies befell the Jewish people is called, of all things, the month of “Av” (father). The Kotzker explained that from a smack, one can recognize a father. From our extraordinary national tragedies we have built-in consolation — we know we still have a Father in Heaven who is concerned with our behavior.
hidur mitzvah — performance of a command in a particularly meritorious fashion
mamzer — bastard
tochacha — chastisement, particularly the prophetic curses appearing in parshas Bechukosai and Ki Savo
Beis HaMikdash, Bayis Sheni — Temple, Second Temple
churban — destruction
simcha — joy
sin’as chinam — baseless hatred
Talmid(ei) Chachom(im) — literally disciple(s) of the wise; referring to Torah scholars.
Klal Yisroel — the Jewish people
Ribono shel Olam — Master of the Universe
Chas v’sholom; Rachmana Litzlan — Heaven Forbid; may G-d Save us
Personalities & Sources:
Rav Yechezkel Abramsky — (1886-1976) Head of London Rabbinical Court, later made aliyah to Eretz Yisroel where he headed the Slabodka Yeshiva in Bnei Brak.
Zohar HaKodosh — collection of sayings and texts found in the manuscripts of the kabbalists of Safed after the printing of the Zohar, assembled by R. Avraham b. Eliezer ha-Levi Berukhim (1515-1593).
Rav Meir Bergman — Contemporary Bnei Brak, Israel; author of Shaarei HaOrah.
Kotzker Rebbe — R. Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (1787-1859); Poland.
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, Maryland.
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 (#66). The corresponding halachic portion for this tape is: #66 is: Learning Hebrew. The other halachic portions for Parshas Ki Savo from the Commuter Chavrusah Series are:
- Tape # 021 – The “Ins and Outs” of Mezzuzah.
- 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
PO Box 511
Owings Mills, MD 21117-0511
Call (410) 358-0416 for further information.
Also Available: Mesorah / Artscroll has published a collection of Rabbi Frand’s essays. The book is entitled:
and is available through Project Genesis On-Line Bookstore: http://books.torah.org/