Points to Ponder

Ki Savo 5774



I stated today (26:3) – Why is it that the one bringing the Bikkurim for the first time needs to make the declaration of Arami Oived Avi? What about the one who has been living in the land for a long time? Is that person exempt? Rav Yosef Kahaneman ztl., Ponevezer Rav, would often note that even one living and working Eretz Yisrael for a long time needs to develop within him, the excitement of one bringing Bikkurim for the first time. The same can be said for Tefillah and Divrei Torah – they need to be as fresh to us as the first chance we get to learn them.


And you will answer and say (26:5)Rashi adds that this recital needs to be out loud. Why does this make a difference? Rav Meir Shapiro, Lubliner Rav ztl explains that Korbanos come from all sections of the world – Domem (the trays of the Nesiim), Tzomeiach (the Korban Mincha), chai (animals) and Midaber (Nachshon jumped in as a korban). We find a parallel in the bikkurim – Domem in the baskets, Chai in the animals brought with the bikkurim, Tzomeiach in the Bikkurim themselves and by offering the Mikra out loud we are highlighting the Midaber part too.


Intensely Listen Yisrael (27:9) – Maran HaRav Schachter Shlita would stress the idea that the language of Haskes is used here because there is a unique aspect to this Bris. This second Beris is not that of a group of individuals – it is the alliance of a nation that carries responsibilities not only for today but for subsequent generations. It is the Bris of  Areivus which requires all of us to brush up on our Torah and the study of the rest of the nation in order to make sure that we are all able to keep our places in Torah life correctly.


And it will be when you choose to listen to all the Mitzvos of Hashem (28:1) – How can one be expected to keep EVERY single mitzvah in order to receive Beracha and to avoid Klala? Rav Aharon Lichtenstein shlita suggests that the answer is based in the responsibility that arises when one is given the opportunity and the potential to follow all of the mitzvos. When we can, we must do our utmost to see to it that we do – do our best to keep the Mitzvos in the best way possible.


And Hashem will make you into a head and not a tail and you will only rise and not fall when you listen to Hashem (28:13) – The Mekubal Rav Meir Bikiyiim ztl. asks why the Torah repeats the same idea with different metaphors? He explains that the metaphors are not the same. There are times when a cat’s tail is higher and raised above the animal’s head. At the same time, there are times that an animal lowers it head but during that time the animal’s head does not become its tail. Not everyone on top is leading but woe to the head that follows its tail. The only way to guarantee that one’s head is on top and leading the way is listening to the Mitzvos of Hashem.


Because you didn’t serve Hashem with Simcha (28:47) – Why is the Simcha so critical in Mitzva observance? Rav Michel Yehudah Lefkowitz ztl. explained that the Simcha discussed here is not an added feature in the human experience. Rather, within each moment of daily living there is a Chiyuv to live it fully and contently – this is the concept of Simcha. When it is missing, there is an aspect of man’s understanding of Avodas Hashem that is missing as well. And, therefore it cannot be mixed with another aspect of Simcha since to do so would prevent a person from being fully present in his current experience which holds him back from the appreciation of Hashem’s presence in that moment. If we have it, we’ve got it all. If we don’t we’ve got nothing.

And Hashem Shall return you to Egypt in boats (28:68) – Why the stress on the boats specifically? Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita cites a Midrash in Eicha Rabba (4:20) which highlights the episode of the attempt of Pharaoh Necho to sail into the land of Israel to help the Jews against their Babylonian invaders. Hashem had the bodies of the Egyptians who had drowned in the Yam Suf rise to the surface and the Egyptian naval officers identified the bodies as Egyptians who had died by the “hand” of the Jews. Upon learning of the discovery,  the navy stated that “if this is what the people did to us, why are we going to help them?” They then turned and went back to Egypt. This, says Rav Chaim, is the curse of the boats. It reminds the Egyptians to refuse to come to Jewish aid.




Haftorah: In its time, I will hasten it (Yeshaya 60:22) – The commentaries on Tanach understand the Novi to be referring to the same period in time while the Gemara (Sanhedrin 98a) seems to speak of a dual possibility – if they are worthy then it will be sped up. If not,  in its time. How to explain the contradictory approaches? Rav Avraham Rivlin Shlita noted that the apparent difference comes down to the roles that men play in determining the time of the Geulah. Assuming that man deserves it and can, Nevuah Nezeila (a big concept in the writings and Sichot of Rav Rivlin) allows for a framing of a particular Nevuah. Thus, what may need to be read one way on the surface can be interpreted another way based on man’s deserving nature.