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ושמחת בכל הטוב

You shall be glad with all the goodness. (26:11)

Parashas Ki Savo begins with the mitzvah of Bikurim, the first fruits, in which the Jewish farmer is enjoined to bring his first fruits to Yerushalayim as a sign of his gratitude to Hashem. He makes a declaration of gratitude, whereby he details Hashem’s loving intervention throughout history, thus demonstrating the realization that everything that he has is only a result of Hashem’s beneficence. Hakoras hatov, expressing one’s gratitude, is a requisite for an individual to be considered a decent human being. One who is an ingrate to others will eventually act likewise to Hashem. We are accustomed to viewing…

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ושמחת בכל הטוב אשר נתן לך ד' אלקיך אתה והלוי והגר אשר בקרבך

And you shall be glad with all the goodness that Hashem, your G-d, has given you and your household – you and the Levi and the ger who is in your midst. (26:11)

A farmer toils, labors in the field, at times under grueling conditions. Baruch Hashem, he is successful and his field produces a bumper crop. Obviously, at this point, the farmer will be overwhelmed with joy. Why does the Torah enjoin him to rejoice? One would expect this to be a given. Horav Mordechai Gifter, zl, observes that human nature is such that man is never happy with what he has. Mi she’yeish lo manah rotzeh masaim, “One who has one hundred – wants two hundred.” He is never satisfied. Whatever success he has achieved he always feels that he could…

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גם כל חלי וכל מכה אשר לא כתוב בספר התורה ועלך ד' עליך

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

Chazal say that the choli and the makah, illness and blow, are references to the tragic passing of tzaddikim, righteous persons. (Veritably, this Midrash, which is quoted by a number of commentators, has yet to be found.) The Yaaros Devash quotes it (Chelek 1, Drush 4). Horav Yeshayah Pik, zl, writes that he had searched for this Midrash and was unsuccessful in locating its source. Indeed, he observed anecdotedly that this is the meaning of a blow that is not written in the Torah. He is unable to locate this Midrash. Apparently, in Shut Tiferes Tzvi Yoreh Deah 38, the…

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ונשארתם מחי מעט

You will be left few in number. (28:62)

The Klausenberger Rebbe, zl, made his home first in New York following the tragedies that he endured in the European Holocaust. Not to sit idle, he understood that his purpose in life at that time was to give comfort to the survivors and build for the future. He set himself to establish institutions of Torah and chesed. Institutions are not built on dreams. He knew that soliciting funds was a vital part of his mission. To this end, he was prepared to travel to other American cities in search of supporters to help him realize his dreams. During one of…

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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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