Friday, September 23, 2016

Parshas Ki Savo

This Week’s Parsha – Ki Savo:
This week’s parsha is Ki Savo, and the first topic it talks about is Bikurim/first fruits.  We take the first ripened fruits, as we are told, of each of the seven species (according to Rashi zt”l quoting from Sifri), and bring them to the Beis HaMikdash, to the Kohen.  First off, the seven species are:  Wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranate, dates, and olives.  But the point of this discussion lies in another thing:  I would like to talk a little bit about gratitude to Hashem and stuff like that.  HaRav Nosson Scherman shlita explains that the concept of Bikurim/first fruits represents the fact that we use everything for serving Hashem.  Even things that we invested so much hard work into, we give the first of it to Hashem.[1]  This is very important. 
And there are just so many things to be said on the topic of Bikurim/first fruits:  We take the first of our fruits of the seven species off for Hashem.  This is the foundation of Bikurim/first fruits.  Growing things take a long time, a lot of work, dedication, etc.  After all of our hard work, all we want is to receive the fruits of our labors, right?  But we have to always remember that it is not our work that really makes the fruits grow – it is Hashem!  It might be hard, though, to remember this throughout all the time it takes for things to grow, and we are liable, if we are not careful about it, to, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid forget Who really makes things grow.  But, behold, the truth of the matter is this:  How could we not, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid remember Hashem, when we realize that He is making our food grow?!  How could we possibly forget Him?!  Would we forget a king who provided for us for even a year?!  Yet the King of kings, HaKadosh Baruch Hu provides for us at all times!  Do we realize this?  And what does Hashem ask of us from all that He bestows upon us, aside from a tiny bit of the seven species?  With these thoughts in mind, how could we not remember Him the entire time that our fruits are growing, and after.  Another thing:  The first of things have a very special thing about them.  For example, imagine planting a blueberry bush and it takes however long to grow.  You are watering it, waiting, and watering it, and waiting, etc.  Finally, after a long time, you get some fruits.  Imagine how happy and excited you would feel at the moment that you pick your very first “home-grown” blueberry and are going to taste – after all that time!  After some time, you might not feel the same excitement, but the first time is very exciting.   

Bikurim/first fruits is when we take the first ripened (according to Rashi zt”l from Sifri) fruits of ours that grew, and instead of jumping and grabbing them for ourselves, we hold back our own excitement, and we realize that they are a gift from Hashem.  Then we designate them for Him.  Instead of taking the first for ourselves, we give it for Hashem!  We have to be able to control our emotions for ourselves, and channel them for Hashem.  Such as in this case, where we channel the excitement of the first fruits we have to the tune of designating them to Hashem.  An example in today’s world that is sort of like Bikurim/first fruits is that we get this great new thing, but before we use it, we say a Bracha/blessing, thanking Hashem for it.  We are so excited – we just got this great new thing!  But, wait, Hashem in the One Who lets us have it, so first we must take time to realize this, and show thanks to Him by saying a blessing.  This is sort of like what Bikurim/first fruits is.  Yet another thing:  My esteemed father, HaRav Chesler shlita discusses the fact that Bikurim/first fruits can also represent the fact that no matter what we get, we must always remember that it is from Hashem, and that thanks to Him and appreciation to Him comes first.  This is very similar to the idea we just discussed.  May Hashem help everyone to feel the proper gratitude to Him for all the good that He gives us, always, and may He redeem us from this Exile very, very speedily in everyone’s days, and then rebuild the Holy Beis HaMikdash, so that we can all bring Bikurim/first fruits once again, Amein, vi’Amein. 

Now on to the parsha:  The first verse of this parsha is ‘V’haya ki savo el ha’aretz asher Hashem Elokecha nosein li’cha nachalah, vi’rishtah, vi’yashavtah bah/And it will be when you will come to the Land that Hashem your G-d gives to you as an inheritance, and you take possession of it and settle in it.’  The verse after this discusses how we must take the Bikurim/first fruits, etc.  Thus, when we came into Israel, took possession of it, and settled in it, we had to bring the Bikurim/first fruits to the Beis HaMikdash, to the Kohen, and the Torah lists the procedure.  The first verse emphasizes that the Land is given to us by Hashem, and, as we know, all things that grow are in some way connected to the ground – the Land.  Thus, the first verse – the one before the Torah tells us about taking Bikurim/first fruits, teaches us to remember that the reason we can grow things, the reason we have the land to grow things on, etc. is solely because of Hashem.  With this in mind, we can then properly fulfill the Mitzvah/Commandment of Bikurim/first fruits. 

Back to the parsha:  There is a procedure that must be done and a thing we must say when we bring the Bikurim/first fruits, and the Holy Torah lists it.  This parsha just really talks so much about keeping the Commandments of Hashem and not breaking them.  So I’m just asking; why would the Torah talk about Bikurim/first fruits in the same parsha as the blessings and curses if we keep or, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid don’t keep the Commandments?  Perhaps the answer we can propose is that such an important thing in serving Hashem properly is gratitude to Him and remembering that it is He Who provides for us.  The Bikurim/first fruits, as we discussed above, can represent the concepts, among many others, of gratitude to Hashem, and remembering that it is He Who gives us everything.  This thing is just so important in serving Hashem, and it is such a huge foundation, that it comes at the very start of the parsha!  Thus we see how important in serving Hashem these concepts are. 

Okay, back to the parsha:  Shlishi/the third Aliyah talks about how we chose Hashem to be our G-d and to walk in His ways, to guard His decrees, statutes and ordinances, and to listen to Him.  And Hashem chose us to be His Treasured People, and to put us above all the other nations of the world.  We are Jews!  Hashem chose us to be a special people!  So we must be special.  Every single Jew is Hashem’s child; nobody can ever be too far to return completely to Hashem.  And now is a perfect time to be talking about this:  It is Elul, coming to the High Holidays.  This time is a time for Teshuva/repentance, and it is a time to try to return to Hashem.  I have to tell the truth; all of us have sinned in some way or another.  But don’t let your Yetzer Hara/Evil Inclination think that we are too far to return to Hashem.  He is waiting patiently for us to do Teshuva/repentance, and return back to Him.  The time is here!  It is time!  No need to wait:  We can return to Hashem wholly right this instant!  Let’s try to, B’Ezras Hashem/With the Help of Hashem do this.  We are soon going to be summoned to the Heavenly Court to be judged for all of our deeds.  We cannot hide any of our deeds from Hashem.  He knows everything!  Even if we sinned in private and no person ever knew about it, it is not at all hidden.  Hashem sees it clearly, and He judges us on it.  We are always standing (sitting, laying, etc.) before the Holies of Holies; the King of kings, the Judge of all judges – Hashem, He is Blessed!  All people must remember this.  We are always standing in the King’s Presence.  This topic could be discussed for so long, but we need to get back to the parsha, so back to the parsha: 

In Rivi’i/the fourth Aliyah, Moshe tells the Jews that when we cross over the Yardein/Jordan, we have to set up big stones, and write upon them the words of the Torah.  We had to write the words clearly, and Rashi zt”l quotes from Gemara Sotah 32a which explains that this means that the words had to be written in all seventy languages.  Wow!  At the beginning of Chamishi/the fifth Aliyah, Moshe commanded the Jews that when we entered Israel, the Tribes of Shimon, Levi, Yehuda, Yissachar, Yosef (Menashe and Ephraim), and Benyamin would stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people.  And Reuven, Gad, Asher, Zevulun, Don, and Naftali would stand on Mount Eival for the curse.  Rashi zt”l  quotes from Gemara Sotah 32a again, which explains that six Tribes (the ones listed above) would stand on Mount Gerizim, the other six Tribes (the ones listed above) would stand on Mount Eival, and the Kohanim, Leviim, and the Aron Kodesh/Holy Ark would stand in the middle of the two mountains.  The Leviim would turn their faces towards Mount Gerizim, and list a blessing, and everybody would answer “Amein”.  Then they would turn their faces towards Mount Eival, and list a curse, and everybody would answer “Amein”, and so on with all the others. 

Back to the parsha:  These are the curses that the Leviim would say, as the Torah says them listed in Italic:  ‘”Cursed be the man who makes any graven or molten image an abomination to the Lord, the handiwork of a craftsman and sets it up in secret”, and all the people shall respond, saying, “Amein!”. “Cursed be he who degrades his father and mother”, and all the people shall say, “Amein!”.  “Cursed be he who moves back his neighbor's landmark”, and all the people shall say, “Amein!”.  “Cursed be he who misguides a blind person on the way”, and all the people shall say, “Amein!”.  “Cursed be he who perverts the judgment of the stranger, the orphan, or the widow”, and all the people shall say, “Amein!”.  “Cursed be he who lies with his father's wife, thus uncovering the corner of his father's garment”, and all the people shall say, “Amein!”.  “Cursed be he who lies with any animal”, and all the people shall say, “Amein!”.  “Cursed be he who lies with his sister, his father's daughter or his mother's daughter”, and all the people shall say, “Amein!”.  “Cursed be he who lies with his mother in law”, and all the people shall say, “Amein!”.  “Cursed be he who strikes his fellow in secret”, and all the people shall say, “Amein!”.  (On this, Rashi zt”l quotes from Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer, which explains that ‘striking his fellow in secret’ refers to the sin of Lashon Hara/Evil Speech – speaking badly of a fellow Jew behind their back).  “Cursed be he who takes a bribe to put an innocent person to death”, and all the people shall say, 'Amein!”.  “Cursed be he who does not uphold the words of this Torah, to fulfill them”, and all the people shall say, “Amein!”. 

After that, the Torah tells us that if we (B’Ezras Hashem/With the Help of Hashem!!) listen to Hashem and keep the Commandments, then we will get all these blessings, and the Torah lists a lot of blessings.  But then, in the middle of Shishi/the sixth Aliyah, the Torah tells us that if we (Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid!!) don’t listen to Hashem and keep the Commandments, then all these curses will come upon us, and the Torah lists a lot of curses.  We must all try our hardest – not just what we call “our hardest” to truly serve Hashem and keep His Holy Commandments always, and then He will give us the incredible blessing listed in this parsha. 

I will just quickly list one last ‘Rebbe commentary’ in this parsha report by quoting a beautiful thing from the holy Nikolsburger Rebbe (Rebbe Yosef Yechiel Michel Lebovits shlita) that I have listed before, but that is just so appropriate for right here:  He explains a beautiful concept in life: Hashem is always close to us (not physically, but spiritually), and He never moves away. However, how then can a person be far from Hashem? Answers the Nikolsburger shlita, if we, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid do aveiros/transgressions (sins) then Hashem does not move away from us – He never does. However, we move away from Him!!!  He is naturally close to us, and we are supposed to move even closer to Him – getting closer and closer always. 

But if a person, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid sins, then they move away and farther from Hashem. And Reb Lebovits shlita even goes further and explains that the person who moves away from Hashem will not receive the Berachos/Blessings which Hashem always sends us.  Hashem always sends us blessings, however, he explains beautifully, if a person, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid sins and moves farther from Hashem, then these blessings that Hashem always sends us won’t even reach us (again, spiritually)!!  Hashem continues to send us all the blessings, but they just don’t reach us, because we moved too far away. (This is a deep concept, and it requires thought or maybe a better explanation.  Also, it is not to be taken on a physical level. You can find the original text on Nikolsburg on Parshas Pinchas, with the title ‘Reward for Mitzvohs’)[2].  The first and final thing is to serve Hashem, Blessed is He, and keep His Commandments.  This is life, and there is nothing else.  May Hashem, the Blessed One help every single person serve Him to the highest level, forever, Amein vi’Amein, so may it be His Will. 
There are 122 pessukim/verses in this parsha.

And, there is one thing I would like to add:  I know it is sort of a Chabad “holiday”, but this week was Chai Elul.  What is Chai Elul?  It is the eighteenth of Elul, which is the birthday of both the Baal Shem Tov (Rebbe Yisroel Ben Eliezer zt”l) and the first Lubavitcher Rebbe – Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi zt”l.  So, even though a lot of likely don’t celebrate this day, it should still be remembered that it truly is a happy day for all. 

Have a wonderful, wonderful Shabbos everyone!!!

Refoel Berel

[1] Stone Edition Chumash, Parshas Ki Savo. Artscroll/Mesorah Publications Ltd.©
[2]  Parshas Pinchas 5776 - Reward for Mitzvohs. 

No comments:

Post a Comment