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Posted on August 30, 2023 (5783) By Rabbi Yissocher Frand | Series: | Level:


These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly portion: #1348 All You Ever Wanted to Know About Hagbah. Good Shabbos!

Among the curses of the tochacha, the pasuk says “All these curses will chase after you and 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. They will be in you and your children as a sign and a wonder forever.” (Devorim 28:45-46)

The Maharal Diskin points out that if we were to take these pesukim at face value, it would be the worst of curses. This is not like the transient curses that the Jews experienced through the generations. Usually, there is an end to each era of persecution that we encounter. There was an end to the Spanish Inquisition. There was an end to the persecutions of Tac”h v’Ta”t (“5408-5409”). There was even an end to the Holocaust. But here the pasuk seems to say that these curses will be with us and our children in perpetuity. Is this pasuk foretelling the doom of Klal Yisrael, its utter destruction? That cannot be.

The Maharal Diskin explains that we need to read the aforementioned pasuk differently. There are two parts to the pasuk. One is “All these curses will come upon you and catch up with you until you are destroyed.” At that point, there is an esnachta in the trop – in effect, marking the end of the sentence. Then the pasuk explains why the Jewish people receive this punishment: “For you will not have listened to the voice of Hashem your G-d, to observe His commandments and His decrees that He commanded you (in a way so that) they will be in you and your children as a sign and a wonder forever.”

In other words, pasuk 46 is referring to the second part of pasuk 45! The criticism of Klal Yisrael and the reason they are being cursed is that they did not keep the commandments in a way that inspired and made an impression on their children and future generations, so that the future generations would want to likewise keep these signs and wonders forever.

The Tolner Rebbe added to this Maharal Diskin: The reason their mitzvah performance did NOT make an impression on their children is explained in pasuk 47: “Because you did not serve Hashem, your G-d, with gladness and with goodness of heart, out of an abundance of everything.” The Jews were chastised for the fact that their fulfillment of mitzvos, as unfortunately is too often the case, was just going through the motions and performing the mitzvos by rote. Our children did not see an excitement and passion in our mitzvah performance. If a person wants his children to follow on the straight trodden path of Torah observance, he needs to motivate them to do so. The only way to do that is for parents to perform the mitzvos with enthusiasm and a sense of simcha (joy). Then, and only then, will their children see and appreciate the fact that this is something meaningful.

As much as we sometimes think that our children are not paying attention, they are paying attention. They see how we daven or how we learn or how we perform the mitzvos of Succos or Pesach, and it makes a difference. If it is just about great meals, then what is religion to them? What does Yiddishkeit mean to the next generation? Without simcha, performance of mitzvos may just seem like a burden to our children.

That is what these pesukim are saying: You are going to experience these curses because you have not kept the mitzvos properly. And what is the meaning of “you have not kept the mitzvos properly?” You have not kept them in a way that they would remain with you and your offspring forever! What does it mean “you have not kept them in a way that they would remain with your offspring?” “You did not serve Hashem your G-d with simcha (i.e. – joy, passion, enthusiasm).”

With this idea, we can better understand the following pesukim at the end of the parsha: “Moshe called all of Israel and said to them, ‘You have seen everything that Hashem did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his slaves and to all his land – the great trials that your eyes beheld; those great signs and wonders. But Hashem did not give you a heart to know or eyes to see or ears to hear, until this day…'” (Devarim 29:1-3)

This is the last day or days of Moshe Rabbeinu’s life. He has been with them for forty years. He has been with them through Galus Mitzraim (the Egyptian exile) and Yitziyas Mitzraim (the Egyptian Exodus) and the forty years in the desert. Moshe was now approaching his own exit from the world. He told the people: “But Hashem did not give you a heart to know or eyes to see or ears to hear, until this day.” After all this time, you still did not get it until today. Finally, I see you got it!

Rashi asks “How did Moshe know that finally they now ‘got it?'” Rashi answers that this was the day (the last day of his life) when Moshe Rabbeinu wrote a Sefer Torah for the Tribe of Levi and gave it to the members of that shevet (Devarim 31:9). All of Israel then came before Moshe and said to him “We too stood at Sinai and received the Torah and it was given to us.” They protested the fact that Moshe only gave a copy of the Sefer Torah to Bnei Levi, as if that shevet was to monopolize the possession of Torah. The other shevatim expressed the fear that at some future date, the Leviim would claim that only they were given the Torah. They expressed their strong objection on this matter.

Rashi says that Moshe was overjoyed when he heard their reaction. Moshe thought this was a beautiful and appropriate sentiment and remarked “This day you have become a nation.” (Devorim 27:9) Now I see that you finally ‘got it’ and this day you have become a people.

Even on the simple level, Rashi’s words here are very powerful. The people complained here that they have not been given a spiritual gift that others were given and they are upset about that. “We want the Torah!” That is well and true, however, Rav Yeruchem Olshin quotes a vort from Rav Nosson Meir Wachtfogel, z”l (1910-1998; Mashgiach of the Lakewood Yeshiva) explaining that it is more than just that.

Rav Nosson Meir Wachtfogel comments “You will say to us tomorrow (machar) ‘It was not given to you.'” That word – machar – is a “code word”. It evokes other places in Chumash where the Torah uses the word ‘machar.‘ Namely, “when your son will ask you tomorrow (machar)…” (Shemos 13:14; Devorim 6:20). When Rashi uses the word “machar” here, he is referring to the children. This Rashi is saying, “Listen, we know we also received the Torah. If you only want to give the Sefer Torah to Bnei Levi, that is well and fine for us now. But ‘tomorrow’ (machar) implying: ‘our children’ – that is going to be a problem. Shevet Levi will possess something to give over to their children; but we won’t possess anything to give over to our children. ”

The rest of the shevatim were not at all concerned that Bnei Levi would deny the fact that the other Jews received the Torah as well. But they were worried about their children. They were afraid that their children would see that only Bnei Levi had Moshe Rabbeinu’s Torah. The children would ask, “Hey, does that mean that only Bnei Levi received the Torah?” Their complaint to Moshe was “You have not given us something to give over to our children!” They knew that if they didn’t have something to give over to their children, the religion would die. That is what they were worried about. That is why every shevet wanted their own Sefer Torah, something to pass on to the next generation to give the religion continuity from father to son to grandson, etc.

When Moshe Rabbeinu saw that they were worried about “What will be with our children?” he rejoiced: Now I see that this day you have become a nation! Today you showed me that you want Torah and Mitzvos, not only for yourselves, but also for generations to come.

Rav Yeruchem Olshin relates to this idea a very interesting comment by the Mefaresh (in place of “Rashi” there) in Tractate Nedarim (81a). Yirmiyahu the prophet tells the nation that the churban is coming. He predicts that the land will be lost and the people will ask “Why was the land lost? What was the aveira that caused the churban?” The Gemara says that HaKadosh Baruch Hu Himself responded: It was because they abandoned the Torah. Rav Yehudah says in the name of Rav that this means she’lo barchu b’Torah techila (they did not make the preliminary blessing before learning Torah). In other words, as most commentaries interpret, they may have learned Torah but they did not give it the proper respect and treat it as fulfillment of a spiritual charge.

However, the Mefaresh on Maseches Nedarim gives an alternate interpretation: Hashem’s charge and criticism against that generation was that they neglected to say the preparatory blessing before learning Torah, which includes the words “and may we and our children and the children of your nation Israel all be among those who know Your Name and learn Your Torah lishmah.” According to the Mefaresh, they learned Torah and they recited the Birkas haTorah. But they did not invoke the prayer on behalf of their children and the other children of Israel.

They learned Torah, they enjoyed Torah, and they found it intellectually stimulating. But they had no desire to give it over to their children. Because of that, the Land would be lost.

This is exactly what happened over here with the Bnei Levi and the other shevatim. Klal Yisrael said, “Fine, we can live without our own copy of the Sefer Torah. But the problem is that you (Shevet Levi) have something to give over to your children and we do not.” A religion becomes a religion when the older generation is able to give it over to their children. And that is what the aforementioned ‘curse’ is about: You didn’t keep the mitzvos in a fashion that would inspire your children to integrate those mitzvos into their own lives and the lives of their children. You did perform the mitzvos, but you performed them in a way that was devoid of passion and excitement.

Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]

Edited 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:

  • 021 The “Ins and Outs” of Mezzuzah
  • 066 Learning Hebrew: Mitzvah or Not?
  • 111 Allocating Your Tzedaka Dollar
  • 157 The Prohibition Against Erasing G-d’s Name
  • 204 Giving a Sefer Torah to a Non-Jew
  • 251 Shidduchim and Parental Wishes
  • 294 Geirim and Davening: Some Unique Problems
  • 340 The Pushka in Halacha
  • 384 The Prohibition of Chodosh
  • 428 Mentioning G-d’s Name in Vain
  • 472 Teffilin Shel Rosh
  • 516 Hagbeh
  • 560 Selichos
  • 604 Reading the Tochacha
  • 648 The Onain and Kaddish
  • 692 The Staggering Cost of Lashon Ho’rah
  • 736 Your Aliya: Must You Read Along?
  • 780 Can You Sue Your Father?
  • 824 Hitting An Older Child
  • 868 Loshon Horah Vs Lying – Which Is Worse?
  • 912 Shaimos What I Do With All Those Papers?
  • 956 The Phony Tzedakah Collector
  • 999 Can Your Mother Serve You Dinner?
  • 1043 Checking Mezzuzos: What Do You Do While They Are Down?
  • 1087 Saying A Borei P’ri Ha’Adama On Fruit
  • 1130 The Silent Shmoneh Esrei – Must It Be Silent
  • 1172 Can One Remove His Mezzuzos When Moving To A New Home?
  • 1216 Are Women Obligated in Yishuv Eretz Yisroel?
  • 1260 Mezzuzah – Case of No Case; Kissing the Mezzuzah – Good Idea or Not?
  • 1304 Erasing a Tatoo of the Shem Hashem – Davening for Personal Needs on Rosh Hashana
  • 1348 All You Ever Wanted to Know About Hagbah
  • 1392 Wearing Tephillin on a Toupee or a Cast
  • 1436 But If We Punish Him He May Not Remain Frum
  • 1480 Someone Dropped the Sefer Torah in Shul – Does Everyone Have to Fast?
  • 1524 Kissing the Mezzuzah: Is it a Good Idea?

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