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ובאת אל הכהן אשר יהיה בימים ההם ואמרת אליו הגדתי היום לד' אלקיך כי באתי אל הארץ

You shall come to whoever shall be the Kohen in those days, and you shall say to him, “I declare today to Hashem, your G-d, that I have come to the Land.” (26:3)

The mitzvah of bringing Bikurim, the first fruits, is paradigmatic of the middah, character trait, of hakoras hatov, gratitude. This middah is one of the most fundamental principles of human and Heavenly relationships. Indeed, one who is makir tov, acknowledges his debt of gratitude to Hashem, even in the areas that affect his interpersonal relationships with people (he understands that what he receives is from Hashem, with people serving as His agency) will ultimately achieve shleimus, completion/perfection, in his relationship with Hashem. The nature of man is to focus on what he is still missing, rather than on what he…

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והיית ממשש בצהרים כאשר ימשש העור באפלה

You shall grope at noon, as the blind man gropes in the darkness. (28:29)

The Yalkut (also Talmud Megillah 24b) questions the implication of this curse. Does it matter to the blind person whether it is dark or not? He does not see anyway. Rabbi Yosi explains that he once had an experience which provided an answer for him. It was late one night when he saw a blind man walking down the dark street with a torch in his hand. “I questioned him, ‘What is the torch to you?’ He replied, ‘When the torch is in my hand people see me and prevent me from falling into pits.’” What a powerful lesson for…

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בבוקר תאמר מי יתן ערב ובערב תאמר מי יתן בוקר מפחד לבבך

In the morning you will say, “Who can give back last night?” And in the evening you will say, “Who can give back this morning?” for the fright of your heart. (28:67)

Rashi explains this practically, with conditions deteriorating on a daily basis to the point that the anguish of today will be so painful it will make one yearn for the suffering of yesterday. This can also refer to those who wake up too late to realize that the life which they led yesterday (in the past) was the precursor to the tzaros, troubles, which they experience today. Whether it be satisfaction with one’s personal spiritual growth or the lack of nachas, satisfaction and pleasure, derived from one’s children – nothing happens in a vacuum. The decisions that we make today…

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ונצעק אל ד' אלקי אבותינו וישמע ד' את קלנו

Then we cried out to Hashem, the G-d of our forefathers, and Hashem heard our voice. (26:7)

The Chassidic Masters teach that, when Klal Yisrael was enslaved in Egypt, they lost the power to articulate their needs to Hashem. Sagar aleihem ha’midbar; “The wilderness has locked them in” (Shemos 14:3). Pharaoh claimed that the Jews were confused and lost in the wilderness; literally, they were locked in. Midbar is interpreted by the Masters as medaber, to speak. Their ability to speak, to pray to Hashem properly, to voice their concerns and plead their case was locked, i.e., they were unable to speak. Thus, the only manners of expression left for them were: anachah, groaning; zaakah, crying out;…

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ואמרת לפני ד' אלקיך ביערתי הקדש מן הבית

Then you shall say before Hashem, your G-d, “I have removed the holy things from the house.” (26:13)

Viduy Maaser, the confession one makes proclaiming that he has fulfilled his sacred duty to give the various tithes and other gifts apportioned from his crops, is a mitzvas asei, positive commandment. The commentators struggle with the term viduy, a word reserved for confessing a sin or wrongdoing. In this case, however, the person is carrying out a mitzvah. Why would confession be necessary? The Satmar Rebbe, zl (Divrei Yoel), met with the Vishnitzer Rebbe, zl, (Ahavas Yisrael) and, in the course of the conversation, this question came up. The Vishnitzer quoted Horav Levi Yitzchak, zl, m’Berditchev, who comments concerning…

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השקיפה ממעון קדשך מן השמים וברך את עמך ישראל

Gaze down from Your abode, from the heavens and bless Your people Yisrael. (26:15)

Rashi explains that this prayer implies: “Hashem, we have carried out Your wishes. We have done that what You decreed upon us; now, You do what behooves You.” The word hashkifah, “gaze (down)”  is unique in that it is almost always used to denote careful examination to determine the appropriate punishment. In other words, it is not used in connection with something positive about to occur.  Rashi observes this in his commentary to Bereishis 18:16, Vayashkifu al pnei Sodom; “They (the angels) gazed towards Sodom.” The angels who had come to visit and participate in the healing of Avraham Avinu,…

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והיה בעברכם את הירדן תקימו את האבנים האלה... בהר עיבל

It shall be when you cross the Jordan, you shall erect these stones… on Har Eival. (27:4)

Har Gerizim was the site of the blessings; Har Eival served as its counterpart, the site reserved for the curses. Would it not make sense that the Mizbayach, Altar, upon which the Korbanos Shelamim, Peace-offerings and Festive-offerings were brought, would be situated on Har Gerizim, the mountain of blessing? Har Eival was the mountain upon which the curses were pronounced. One would consider it an unlikely candidate for the Mizbayach. Horav Moshe Feinstien, zl, illuminates us with an insight into the meaning of — and the distinction between –blessing and curse. Blessing is defined as abundance, fulfillment of all one’s…

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אלה יעמדו לברך את העם... ואלה יעמדו על הקללה

These shall stand to bless the people… and these shall stand for the curse. (27:12,13)

There appears to be a change in the vernacular between blessing and curse. Concerning blessing, the Torah writes l’varech es ha’am, “to bless the people,” implying proactive blessing, while regarding curse, it states, “stand for curse,” almost as if the curse happens by itself. The Kli Yakar explains that this is, indeed, the case. Blessing is actively bestowed by Hashem to the person who deserves it. Curse, however, is the result of hastaras Panim, Hashem concealing Himself (so to speak) from he whose actions warrant curse. Hashem removes Himself, takes off the protective covering that spares us from pain. Once…

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גם כל חלי וכל מכה אשר לא כתוב בספר התורה הזאת יעלם ד' עליך עד השמדך

Even any illness and any blow that is not written in this Book of the Torah, Hashem will bring upon you, until you are destroyed. (28:61)

This pasuk caps it off. If there were not enough curses (98) to punish us, we are informed that, just because the curse did not appear in the Torah, we will not be exempted from it. Every illness or blow, in other words, everything that could possibly be imagined – is included in the punishments available for disciplining us, if necessary. This presents us with a very bleak outlook. Horav Mordechai Pogremonsky, zl, addressed this issue, when the Telshe students who were displaced from their yeshivah were living in Shidlov, at the beginning of World War II. Tensions were rising,…

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אלה יעמדו לברך את העם על הר גרזים בעברכם את הירדן שמעון ולוי ויהודה ויששכר ויוסף ובנימין

These shall stand to bless the people on Har Gerizim, when you have crossed the Yarden: Shimon, Levi, Yehudah, Yissachar, Yosef and Binyamin. (27:12)

As soon as the nation entered the Land, the people were to assemble at two mountains to re-accept the Torah. Twelve commandments would be enumerated, which the people would acknowledge publicly, affirming their understanding that those who observed these commandments would be blessed and those who reneged them would be cursed. Representatives of six tribes would stand on one mountain (Har Gerizim) for blessing, and representatives of the other six tribes would stand opposite on the other mountain (Har Eival) for curse. The twelve commandments which were Divinely selected are such acts that can be carried out covertly. A subtle…

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