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Ki Tavo

This Issue's Halacha Article

Parshat Ki Tavo

16 Elul 5766

September 9, 2006

Vol.16 No.1

In This Issue:

Uplifting the Torah

by Rabbi Yosef Adler

As Am Yisrael prepares to enter Eretz Yisrael, Moshe informs them that when they reach Har Gerizim and Har Eival, a new covenant will be established between them and HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Six tribes would ascend Har Gerizim to hear the Berachot, and the other six would receive the Kelalot upon Har Eival. The Torah actually records only the Kelalot. Rashi cites the Gemara in Sotah 36b and states that, in reality, the Leviim recited both the Berachot and the Kelalot as they faced Har Gerizim and Har Eival, respectively. There are eleven specific Aveirot mentioned which we are to avoid; amongst them are the Issurim to ridicule one's mother and father, to take a bribe, and to strike a friend. The issue of why specifically these eleven commandments were selected is subject to much discussion. However, the concluding Pasuk of the Kelalot (Devarim 27:26) reads, "Arur Asher Lo Yakim Et Divrei HaTorah HaZot Laasot Otam, VeAmar Kol HaAm Amen," "'Cursed is he who does not Yakim the words of this Torah and perform them,' and the whole nation said Amen."

Rashi suggests that this broad, sweeping phrase is designed to remind everyone to observe the remaining 602 Mitzvot of the rest of the Torah. One who observes any Mitzvah will be blessed and one who violates any transgression will be cursed. Yakim, to Rashi, is then translated as "to observe". Ramban, however, in his second explanation of the Pasuk, cites a Yerushalmi in Sotah indicating that the word Yakim must be translated as "to uplift" and that this serves as a reference to our practice that after Keriat HaTorah (or before Keriah for Eidot HaMizrach), one should pick up the Torah and display it to all the people in the shul.

I interpret the Ramban in the following manner. The Torah is effectively studied between a Rebbe and his student. There are teachers who are great scholars and orators and enjoy the ability to transmit the depths of the Torah to their students. But ultimately, a student learns the Rebbe's Torah, as he understands it. The real challenge of a teacher is to enable his student to reach the appropriate conclusion on his or her own, by having the teacher guide the student in the right direction. Through proper guidance, the student identifies the difficulty with the text of the Gemara or Rishonim that he or she learns, and then proceeds to suggest a resolution. The Torah then becomes his or her own, in fulfillment of the request we make thrice daily, "VeTain Chelkeinu BeToratecha." The student is then lifting the Torah personally, and thereby fulfilling, Baruch Asher Yakim Et Divrei HaTorah HaZot.

Mutual Responsibility

by Avi Levinson

After recounting all the terrible things that will happen to Bnei Yisrael if they do not uphold the Torah, Moshe says (Devarim 28:69), "Eileh Divrei HaBerit Asher Tzivah Hashem Et Moshe Lichrot Et Bnei Yisrael BeEretz Moav MiLevad HaBerit Asher Karat Eetam BeChoreiv," "These are the words of the covenant that Hashem commanded Moshe to seal with Bnei Yisrael in the land of Moav, besides for the covenant that He sealed with them at Choreiv (Har Sinai)." Why was this second covenant necessary? Why couldn't the covenant sealed at Har Sinai suffice?

Before properly examining this issue, it is important to note that it is somewhat unclear which Brit is the covenant to which the Pasuk refers. The Pasuk might refer to the previous section, which talked about the consequences of not following Hashem's will, or it could refer to Parshat Nitzavim, the section which immediately follows this Pasuk. Since the Pasuk in question is separated from both the preceding and following sections by paragraph breaks, we cannot definitively link it to either part textually. The fact that the Pasuk is part of chapter 28 (the Tochecha) is also not of any significance because the Perakim were not divided by Jews; therefore, the location of the Pasuk within chapter 28 cannot shed any relevant light on the true association of the Pasuk. Due to this and other unclear implications from the Pesukim, some suggest that the Brit actually refers to both of the adjacent sections. Working with this explanation, Rav Hershel Schachter suggests a possible reason for the second Brit. In Parshat Nitzavim (Devarim 29:13-14), Moshe makes it clear that "Lo Eetechem Levadechem Anochi Koreit Et HaBerit HaZot… Ki Et Asher Yeshno Po… VeEit Asher Einenu Po Eemanu HaYom," "Not with you alone do I seal this (second) covenant… but with whomever is here… and with whomever is not here with us today." In other words, it is this Brit that binds all future generations to keep the Torah. The Brit Sinai, on the other hand, only obligated the generation that heard it. This leaves the question, why did Hashem have to wait until Bnei Yisrael had spent forty years in the desert to bind future generations? Why couldn't He have done so at the Brit Sinai?

Rav Schachter explains that when Bnei Yisrael left Mitzrayim, they were just a group of individuals. Fresh out of the "iron crucible" (Devarim 4:20) of Egypt, it was difficult for them to shed the slave-mentality. A slave does not have the time or energy to look out for others. He can only afford to worry about himself. In such a state, Bnei Yisrael accepted the Torah and the Brit Sinai. In line with this, the Tochecha at the end of Vayikra, which sealed this Brit, was said in plural. Hashem was speaking to a group of individuals. Such a group could not obligate future generations to keep the Torah - an individual who accepted the Torah upon himself does not bind a person who lives after him. However, after forty years of wandering together in the desert, Bnei Yisrael had coalesced into a single cohesive unit. They had become Am Yisrael, the nation of Israel. Fittingly, the Tochecha which seals the second Brit is written in singular, because Moshe was addressing a single, complete unit. Now that Bnei Yisrael had become a nation, they could bind future generations of that nation to keep the Torah, as it was now a national responsibility. In fact, Chazal say that the principle of Arvut, mutual responsibility for each other, did not come into effect until the second Brit was sealed. Mutual responsibility could not exist until there was a single unit to be responsible for. Individuals with no common purpose have no reason to watch out for one another.

In its very sealing, this Brit promoted a sense of unity necessary for Arvut. Moshe instructs the people that upon entering the land, they should formally ratify the Brit on Har Gerizim and Har Eival. Six Shevatim were to stand on each mountain. Shimon, Levi, Yehuda, Yissachar, Yosef and Binyamin would stand on Har Gerizim, while Reuven, Gad, Asher, Zevulun, Dan and Naftali would stand on Har Eival. The division of these Shevatim seems random. One explanation for the mixing is that Moshe wanted to promote a sense of unity among the children of the different wives of Yaakov. For this reason, he placed Reuven and Zevulun, children of Leah, on the mountain with the children of Bilhah and Zilpah. The children of Leah might have had a tendency to look down upon the children of the maidservants, so Moshe placed them together to show that they are all on equal footing. Only through this realization could there be Arvut. If Bnei Leah would feel superior to the children of Bilhah and Zilpah, they might not feel any responsibility to help them. Similarly, some of Bnei Leah were placed on Har Gerizim with Bnei Rachel. Bnei Rachel had been the source of much strife (such as Mechirat Yosef). Moshe was hinting to Bnei Leah that they had to cooperate with Bnei Rachel in forming a unified nation whose members would look out for each other.

Appropriately, this Brit was sealed in a place called Arvot Moav, the plains of Moav. The letters of the word Arvot and Arvut (Ayin Reish Bet Vav Tav) are exactly the same. The very location would serve as a reminder to Bnei Yisrael to maintain the feeling of Arvut that existed in Arvot Moav.

Rosh Hashanah is fast approaching, a time for introspection and self-evaluation. One thing that must be considered is how much we help our fellow Jews. Do we take responsibility for them? Do we pick up the slack if they are unable to continue? Do we help them when they feel down? Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh BaZeh, we are all responsible for each other. By internalizing this message, we can improve our performance of Bein Adam LaChaveiro, (between man and man) Mitzvot, and hopefully merit a Ketivah VaChatimah Tovah

Satisfying Offering

by Tzvi Zuckier

In introducing the topic of Bikkurim, the first fruits which were brought to the Beit HaMikdash, the Torah states, "VeHaya Ki Tavo El HaAretz Asher Hashem Elokecha Notein Lecha Nachalah ViYrishtah VeYashavta Bah," "And it shall be when you come to the land which Hashem your G-d gives you as an inheritance, and you shall possess it and dwell in it." The next several Pesukim describe the process of bringing Bikkurim. Rashi quotes the Gemara (Kiddushin 37b), which learns from this first Pasuk that the bringing of Bikkurim and its laws are only applicable when living in Israel after the land was divided. One key detail which is absent from the Pesukim is the minimum quantity of Bikkurim required to be presented. The Yerushalmi (Bikkurim 83), quoted by the Rambam, defines the minimum as one sixtieth. The meaning of the Yerushalmi is somewhat unclear; what must one bring a sixtieth of?

The Aliyot Eliyahu, cited by Maayanah Shel Torah, offers a satisfying solution to this question based on the aforementioned rule that Bikkurim apply only in Eretz Yisrael. He quotes a Mishnah in Masechet Keilim which states that a Teneh, the word used for the basket basket in which the Bikkurim are placed, can hold up to half a Saah. The Gemara (Ketubot 111) explains that at the time when the Shechinah resides in Israel, which is only when the Jews live in Eretz Yisrael, every tree would yield the amount of produce which would require the effort of two donkeys to haul. According to Chazal, one donkey can carry fifteen Saah, so each tree would yield twice that amount, or thirty Saah. Since the laws of Bikkurim only relate to a time when the Jews live in Israel, each tree produced thirty Saah when the laws of Bikkurim were in effect. Since the laws of Bikkurim apply even if one owns just a single tree, the smallest possible required quantity of Bikkurim is one sixtieth of one tree. This one sixtieth is exactly half a Saah, the amount a Teneh can hold.

The Torah is flawless. Although certain details may not be explicitly stated, there is almost always some hint to them in the Pesukim. We should not assume (Chas VeShalom) that the Torah is incorrect or incomplete. It is well known that the Torah was written with as few words as possible and Hashem, in his infinite wisdom, knew what items to include and what parts to leave out. However, Hashem still included clues in the Torah which point to the correct Halachic conclusion to be reached.

Giving or Taking?

by Tzvi Atkin

At the beginning of this week's Parsha, the Torah discusses the commandment of bringing Bikkurim, the first fruits, up to the Beit HaMikdash. The Torah tells us, "VeLakachta MeiReishit Kol Peri HaAdamah Aasher Tavee MeiArtzecha Asher Hashem Elokecha Notein Lach," "And you shall take from the first of every fruit of the ground that you bring in from your land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you." Why does the Torah use the words "and you shall take" instead of "and you shall give"?

The Nachal Kedumim answers that the Torah's word usage can be compared to the discussion of "Adam Chashuv" (prominent individual) in Masechet Kiddushin (7a). The Gemara says that if a man is very distinguished, he can betroth a woman just by accepting a present from her, because the fact that he, an important person, accepts her gift triggers enough benefit to effect Kiddushin. It is as if he is giving her a present rather than the reverse. The Nachal Kedumim says that the same concept appears regarding the bringing of the Bikkurim. At first glance, it seems as though we are giving the Bikkurim to Hashem as a present. However, in reality, Hashem is the one giving while we are the ones taking. Hashem is giving us the extraordinary opportunity to take our fruits and bring them before him, the greatest and most Supreme Being in the entire universe.

The lesson that the Torah is teaching us is that we have to realize when doing them that they aren't just commandments to be performed by rote. Quite the contrary, they are special opportunities that are meant for us to become closer to Hakadosh Baruch Hu and should be done with joy and love. Hopefully, we will be able to instill this aspect of doing Mitzvot within ourselves in the Month of Elul as we approach Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur and thereby merit a Ketivah VaChatimah Tovah.

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