These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: CD #1130 – The Silent Shmoneh Esrei – Must It Be Silent Good Shabbos!
Three Interpretations of V’Heeseegucha
Over the years, we have given various interpretations of a certain expression in a pasuk in this week’s parsha: Perek 28 in Devorim begins with the words: “It shall be that if you listen to the voice of Hashem, your G-d, to keep, to perform all of His commandments that I command you this day, then Hashem, your G-d, will make you supreme over all the nations of the earth.” [Devarim 28:1] That is the good news. If we keep the mitzvos, the Master of the Universe will elevate us above all the nations of the world. The next pasuk continues: “All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you (u’ba-oo alecha kol haBrachos ha’eleh v’heeseegucha), if you listen to the voice of Hashem, your G-d.” [Devarim 28:2].
Many times, we have tried to understand exactly what the word “v’heeseegucha” means. The preceding expression that “all these blessings will come upon you” seems to be sufficient. That statement should stand by itself. It is not clear what the extra verb “v’heeseegucha” (literally – they will catch up to you) is trying to add. This year, I would like to offer three interpretations of what that word means.
Interpretation #1: Sforno
The Sforno on this pasuk writes cryptically that the blessings will come upon you “even though you will not attempt to get them.” What does that mean? The Imrei Baruch suggests the following interpretation of the Sforno’s words. Rabbeinu Bachaye on Chumash prefaces each parsha with a pasuk from Proverbs which he somehow ties in with that parsha. He begins Parshas Shlach with the pasuk “The horse is ready for the day of battle, and to Hashem (belongs) salvation.” [Mishlei 21:31] Rabbeinu Bachaye expands on the lesson of this pasuk. Regarding everything in life, it is necessary to make preparations, which, according to the laws of nature, will lead a person to success. If the situation looks like war will be necessary, then people need to prepare for war. In Biblical times, this meant preparing horses and chariots. In other times, it meant preparing swords and spears. In other times, people needed to prepare catapults – whatever represented “state-of-the-art” battle at that given time. Today, this means having a strong air force and navy, which is ready for all contingencies. It is essential to prepare. It is forbidden to just sit back and say “Nu, the Ribono shel Olam will Help.”
However, after all the preparations, a person needs to realize, as Shlomo HaMelech says – “and to Hashem (belongs) salvation.” Salvation does not come from the planes and the tanks, etc. It comes from the Almighty. This is the reality of how He works in this world. Things must appear “natural” but at the end of the day, it is not the planes and the tanks. It is “to Hashem (belongs) salvation.”
Rabbeinu Bachaye then cites another common example. When a person is sick, it is necessary to visit doctors and take the appropriate medications. Treatment needs to be undertaken which will hopefully cure the illness “by natural means.” Healthy foods must be eaten, harmful foods must be avoided. After all the natural procedures and treatments, it is appropriate to believe that the cure will not come because of all these “natural efforts” but rather from the Almighty who cures all flesh. Hashem does not ask us to only pray to Him for cures and that we otherwise do nothing in terms of taking advantage of contemporary medical knowledge. That is not the way this world works. The Almighty does not perform open miracles on a daily basis for everyone.
However, He does perform “hidden miracles” all the time. So we need to set up a camouflage. Get a good surgeon; get a good doctor; get good input. But do not forget who is really the One who cures all flesh and heals with wonders. This could be what the Sforno means when he interprets “and all these blessing will come upon you” – you do all these things that are necessary to achieve the blessings you seek (victory in war, health, wealth, etc.), but ultimately “v’heeseegoocha.” Those blessings are not going to come directly because of your efforts. They are going to “catch up with you” – because the Ribono shel Olam will camouflage His way of getting the blessings to you such that they will appear as if they come through natural means. That is one possible explanation.
Interpretation #2: Degel Machaneh Ephraim
I saw another explanation brought down in the name of the Degel Machaneh Ephraim (a grandson of the Baal Shem Tov). The Degel Machaneh Ephraim also analyzes the meaning of the expression “all these blessings will come upon you v’heeseegoocha.” He references a very famous pasuk in Tehillim [Psalms]. Dovid HaMelech [King David] says, “Only goodness and kindness shall pursue me (yirdefoonee) all the days of my life.” [Tehilim 23:6] The word yirdefoonee means to chase somebody. When I am running away from someone or something bad which is pursuing me, it is appropriate to say about my pursuer yirdefoonee. However, it is odd to use that verb in connection with “tov v’chessed” (goodness and kindness). In what sense can we say about “tov v’chessed” that they are “chasing after me”? I am not going to run away from “tov v’chessed“. If someone wants to offer me a million dollars, I will run after him, not vice versa!
The Degel Machane Ephraim explains that sometimes we do not know from where the “tov” is going to come. Sometimes we try a certain plan or approach but success does not come from that direction. Dovid HaMelech therefore prays to the Almighty “Please, Hashem, if I am running away from that which is eventually going to be good for me, have that ‘good’ chase after me – because I am not going to be wise enough to figure out that this is the direction from which the ‘tov v’chessed‘ is really going to come.”
There is a famous Chassidic story of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev who saw a person running and he asked him “To where are you running?” The runner responded, “I am running to a certain place where I know I can make a good business deal.” Rabbi Levi Yitzchak asked him, “How are you so sure that your parnassah [livelihood] is in the place to which you are running, perhaps your parnassah is right here in the place where you already are?” We just do not know from where our livelihood is going to come.
The Degel Machaneh Ephraim explains that this is the interpretation of the pasuk “And all these blessings will come upon you and they will catch up with you (v’heeseegoocha).” Sometimes we run away from the chessed and from the good. It needs to chase after us. It is not sufficient for the blessings to come upon us. When, as often happens, we are headed in the wrong direction, we require that they run after us.
Interpretation #3: Rav Tzadok HaKohen
The third interpretation actually answers another question as well. Rav Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin writes in the name of the Rebbe Reb Bunim of Peshischa that the expression “and the blessings will come upon you v’heeseegoocha” means that the blessings should reach you where you are. This means that the blessings should not change you. The Brochos that you receive will reach you “where you are” and you will not become a different person because of them.
All too often, we see that when someone comes into a lot of success and a lot of money, it changes him. He becomes a different person. Fame and fortune can do that. The promise is – according to Rav Tzadok — that the blessings should reach you and cause you to remain exactly where you were before they arrived.
The reason I prefer this interpretation over the others is because it always bothered me that virtually the same language is used by the curses 13 pesukim later: “And if you do not hearken to the voice of the Hashem your G-d to observe and keep all His commandments and statutes that I command you this day, then all these curses v’heeseegoocha [will overtake you]” [Devarim 28:15]. According to the first two interpretations given above, v’heeeseegoocha does not seem to make sense in connection with the curses. However, it makes sence with Rav Tzadok’s approach. Just like good things sometimes change a person, so too bad things (may the Almighty spare us from such) can change a person. If, unfortunately, a person needs to suffer curses, he should not need to change because of that either.
Do Not Read This Pasuk As A Curse For Ever and Ever
The final observation I wish to share is a very interesting comment from the Maharil Diskin on the pasuk “All these curses will come upon you and pursue you and overtake you, until you are destroyed, because you will not have listened to the voice of Hashem, your G-d, to observe His commandments and His decrees that He commanded you.” [Devorim 28:45] The next pasuk continues: “They will be in you as a sign and as a wonder, and in your offspring, for ever and ever.” [ibid. 28:46]
The Maharal Diskin is taken aback by the apparently shocking implication of this curse – a curse which is destined to last “for ever and ever.” The Maharal Diskin gives a novel interpretation of the pasuk and says it is not to be understood as the words seem to literally mean. He interprets the pasuk to mean that the curses will come upon you because you did not keep the commandments and decrees of G-d. However, the curses will come upon you in such a way that they (the commandments) will be in you and your offspring as a sign and wonder forever!
Heaven forbid that the pasuk means that the curses will stay with our offspring forever. The pasuk is not predicting the demise of Klal Yisrael. Rather, it must be read in conjunction with the following pasuk. It means that the curses which come upon us will be due to the fact that we did not keep the Torah in a meaningful way such that the commandments will remain with our offspring forever.
The mitzvos we do are supposed to make an impression on our children. If we see that they are not making a positive impression on our children and wish to know why not, we need to look no further than the next pasuk: It is “because you did not serve Hashem, your G-d, with gladness and with goodness of heart, out of an abundance of everything (b’simcha u’btov lev, m’rov kol).” [ibid. 28:47] Mitzvos need to be performed with joy and enthusiasm. In this way, our children will be caught up in our passion and emotion and realize how important it is for them to make mitzvos part of their own lives as well. When our children see what a Pesach means to us and what a Succos means to us and they see how meaningful they are to our lives, then their observance of the commandments will be “a sign and a wonder forever and ever” as well.
When our mitzvah performance does not make that impression on our children, when we do not worship Hashem, our G-d, in joy at a time when we have an abundance of everything, and when we only “go through the motions” of mitzvah observance, our children will not be impressed. Merely “going through the motions” may suffice to keep a person going, but our children will find it to be an empty experience which will not inspire them to continue in our ways.
That is what this pasuk is saying. If we want mitzvos to make the impression they are supposed to make, they need to be done b’simcha u’btov lev, m’rov kol.
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Ki Savo is provided below:
- CD# 021 The “Ins and Outs” of Mezzuzah
- CD# 066 Learning Hebrew: Mitzvah or Not?
- CD# 111 Allocating Your Tzedaka Dollar
- CD# 157 The Prohibition Against Erasing G-d’s Name
- CD# 204 Giving a Sefer Torah to a Non-Jew
- CD# 251 Shidduchim and Parental Wishes
- CD# 294 Geirim and Davening: Some Unique Problems
- CD# 340 The Pushka in Halacha
- CD# 384 The Prohibition of Chodosh
- CD# 428 Mentioning G-d’s Name in Vain
- CD# 472 Teffilin Shel Rosh
- CD# 516 Hagbeh
- CD# 560 Selichos
- CD# 604 Reading the Tochacha
- CD# 648 The Onain and Kaddish
- CD# 692 The Staggering Cost of Lashon Ho’rah
- CD# 736 Your Aliya: Must You Read Along?
- CD# 780 Can You Sue Your Father?
- CD# 824 Hitting An Older Child
- CD# 868 Loshon Horah Vs Lying – Which Is Worse?
- CD# 912 Shaimos What I Do With All Those Papers?
- CD# 956 The Phony Tzedakah Collector
- CD# 999 Can Your Mother Serve You Dinner?
- CD# 1043 Checking Mezzuzos: What Do You Do While They Are Down?
- CD# 1087 Saying A Borei P’ri Ha’Adama On Fruit
- CD# 1130 The Silent Shmoneh Esrei – Must It Be Silent
- CD# 1172 Can One Remove His Mezzuzos When Moving To A New Home?
- CD# 1216 Are Women Obligated in Yishuv Eretz Yisroel?
- CD# 1260 Mezzuzah – Case of No Case; Kissing the Mezzuzah – Good Idea or Not?
A complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.yadyechiel.org/ for further information.