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ראה אנכי נתן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה

See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse. (11:26)

Hayom, today. Does the word “today” hold significance? Is the choice of blessing or curse applicable only today? What about tomorrow? Will we still have the opportunity for choice? I was thinking about this question when I came across an article by a respected rabbinic author in which he explained why he was not celebrating his birthday. He attributes this to the fact that, upon perusing the Torah, one notes that the only birthday we read about is that of Pharaoh. When we think about it, the only day that we Jews seem to deem worthy of celebration is the…

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ראה אנכי נתן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה

See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse. (11:26)

One would think that since Moshe Rabbeinu is conveying Hashem’s message to the nation, he would say: “See, Hashem presents before you today a blessing and a curse.” Why does he say “I”? He is merely Hashem’s agent. Horav Tzvi Hirsch Ferber, zl, cites Chazal (Berachos 33b) concerning the pasuk in Devarim 10:12, “Now, O Yisrael, what does Hashem, your G-d, ask of you? Only to fear Hashem.” All Hashem wants of us is fear. It seems like a simple request. Perhaps for Moshe it was simple, but it is not simple for the rest of the Jewish People. The…

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את הברכה אשר תשמעו אל מצות ד' אליכם

The blessing: that you hearken to the mitzvos of Hashem, your G-d. (11:27)

The blessing – that you listen (hearken). Should it not have written im tishme’u, if you will listen? Asher, that (you will listen), sounds as if it is referring to one’s ability to listen. I would assume that we all have the ability. It is only a question concerning our desire to listen. The Torah appears to focus on ability, rather than on desire. Perhaps the Torah is teaching us a lesson concerning listening: Listen with your heart – not only with your ears. Deep listening via the emotional compass of one’s heart allows one to hear the “sounds” of…

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כי יקום בקרבך נביא או חלם חלום... לאמר נלכה אחרי אלהים אחרים... לא תשמע אל דברי הנביא ההוא

If there should stand up in your midst a prophet or a dreamer of a dream… saying, “Let us follow gods of others… do not hearken to the words of that prophet.” (13:2,3,4)

We never cease to be amazed by the sheer brilliance of the Baal HaTurim (which was written when the author was seventeen years old). Concerning the word, b’kirbecha, “in your midst,” he writes: The gematria, numerical equivalent, of b’kirbecha navi is zu ha’ishah, “This is the woman.” It is difficult to understand, since the numerical values do not coincide. B’kirbecha Navi equal 387, while zu ha’ishah equals 324. As a result of the difficulty in understanding his statement, many girsaos, versions, of the Baal HaTurim have deleted this. In his Kerem HaTzvi, Horav Tzvi Hirsh Ferber, zl, quotes Torah Shleimah…

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לא תאמץ את לבבך ולא תקפוץ את ידך מאחיך האביון

You shall not harden your heart or close your hand against your destitute brother. (15:7)

Tzedakah tatzil mimaves, “Charity saves one from death.” Does this mean that one who gives charity will live forever? No. It is a powerful segulah, merit of good fortune, which may come in handy. It might very well be that one merit the individual needs to push him over to “life” side. A simple, practical analogy quoted by Horav Yaakov Galinsky, zl, illuminates this concept. Two misers were talking to one another. Reuven said to Shimon, “How miserable we are. Indeed, we have no Olam Hazeh (we do not allow ourselves to enjoy the pleasures of this world), and we…

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ראה אנכי נתן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה

Behold! I set before you today the blessing and the curse. (11:26)

“It is either/or,” writes Targum Yonasan: Ana mesader kadameichou birkesa v’chilufta, “I arranged for you today a blessing and its opposite. Sforno writes, “Perceive that your affairs are not of an intermediate nature – as is the case concerning other nations. The fate of other nations is not marked by full prosperity or complete devastation – as is ours. Theirs is not a condition of extremes: of blessing and curse.” The lot of Hashem’s People, His children, is destined to be the most uncommon, in which there will be no middle course. We will either be blessed or cursed. Klal…

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אבד תאבדון את כל המקומות אשר עבדו שם הגוים אשר אתם ירשים אתם את אלהיהם על ההרים הרמים ועל הגבעות ותחת כל עץ רענן

You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations that you are driving away worshipped their gods: on the high mountains and on the hills, and under every leafy tree. (12:2)

The Torah instructs us to destroy the idols and the places where they were worshipped. Actually, halachah dictates that only the idol itself is destroyed – not the place upon which the idol was set. Furthermore, if a hill, mountain, or tree attached to the ground was designated as an idol, it did not have to be destroyed. What is the meaning of the Torah’s exhortation to “destroy all the places”? Horav Michel Feinstein, zl, explains that, obviously, idols have no power whatsoever. They consist of nothingness; they are simply a ruse to fool their worshippers. One of the methods…

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כי עם קדוש אתה לד' אלקיך

For you are a holy people to Hashem, your G-d. (14:2)

Rashi explains that our personal kedushah, sanctity, is endowed to us by our forebears, our ancestors. In my opinion, herein lies one of the most inspiring principles of Judaism: we are descendants of a holy, illustrious lineage, and, as such, we have a responsibility to maintain this pedigree. This is perhaps one of the reasons that so many assimilated Jews have no impetus to return. They have no idea of their heritage, who they are, and from whom they have descended. The German reformers who initiated the break with traditional Judaism first erased Jewish history. They were acutely aware that,…

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כי טוב לו עמך

For it is good for him with you. (15:16)

The Talmud Kiddushin 20a teaches that the eved Ivri, Jewish bondsman, enjoys the same standard of living as does his owner. Imcha b’maachal u’b’mishteh, “With you in food and drink. You should neither eat white bread while the eved eats black bread, nor should you sleep on cushions while he sleeps on straw.” This teaches us that one who purchases an eved is actually purchasing an adon, a master, for himself. Tosfos question why the bondsman becomes the master, on a higher level than the owner. Why does the owner not simply have equal status with the eved? Why would…

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ראה אנכי נותן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה

See! I present before you today a blessing and a curse. (11:26)

The Daas Zekeinim m’Baalei Tosfos offer a novel interpretation of the word reeh, see, focusing on what it was the nation was to look at. Moshe Rabbeinu said to Klal Yisrael: “See – look at me. I chose the derech tov, the path which leads to blessing. As a result, I look different.” This is reference to the karnei or, rays of Divine light, which emanated from Moshe, causing his countenance to radiate. Horav Eliyahu Svei, zl, observes that, although Moshe presented the people with a choice of two divergent paths, one, which leads to blessing, and the other, which…

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