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תחת אשר לא עבדת את ד' אלקיך בשמחה ובטוב לבב מרב כל

Because you did not serve Hashem, your G-d, amid gladness and goodness of heart, when everything was abundant. (28:47)

If we ever have needed clear, incontrovertible proof that a joyful attitude in life is important, we have it in this pasuk. Furthermore, the Torah is teaching us that mitzvah performance sans joy is of little significance. In fact, it leads a person to renege his observance eventually. Proof positive is the fact that the Torah attributes the cause of the ninety-eight curses, maledictions, punishments to our lack of joy in mitzvah observance. We translate simchah as joy. In contrast to happiness, which is a state of being, joy is a state of the moment. One can be surrounded with…

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ונתנך ד' לראש ולא לזנב והיית רק למעלה ולא תהיה למטה

Hashem shall place you as a head and not as a tail; you shall be only above, and you shall not be below. (28:13)

The Ramban explains that the two terms are not repetitious. It is possible to be a leader to some and a follower of others. Hashem promises that if Klal Yisrael is worthy, they will follow no one. They will be highly respected – by everyone. Horav Ezriel Hildeshaimer, zl, explains that a person who grows up amid luxury, who is used to and comforted by the finer things in life, will invariably not be impressed when he is “bumped up,” elevated to another class of living. He has had so much exposure to a grandiose lifestyle, that a little more…

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וירא את ענינו ואת עמלנו ואת לחצנו

And He saw our affliction, our travail, and our oppression. (26:7)

In the Haggadah, Chazal expound, “V’es amaleinu, our affliction – eilu ha’banim, this refers to our children.” Ibn Ezra and Ritva support this idea. One wonders why Chazal would expound a pasuk in a manner totally inconsistent with the vernacular of the pasuk. The Torah addresses the cruel and brutal labor to which the Jews were subjected in Egypt. How do children enter into the equation? Horav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, zl (quoted in V’Zos HaTorah by Horav Eliyahu Schlesinger), observes that the word amal is always used in connection to the toil that a person expends for something that he…

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ואמרת אליו הגדתי היום לד' אלקיך כי באתי אל הארץ אשר נשבע ד' לאבתינו לתת לנו

And you shall say to him, “I declare today to Hashem, your G-d, that I have come to the Land that Hashem swore to our forefathers to give to us.” (26:3)

The landowner brings his fruits to Yerushalayim, to the Kohen, and makes his declaration acknowledging that whatever material bounty he has been fortunate to attain is due solely to Hashem’s beneficence. Thus, concerning the words, “And you shall say to him,” Rashi comments, “To show that you are not unappreciative.” The Sifri explains the need to direct this declaration to the Kohen, for it is only by acknowledging to another that Hashem has fulfilled His promise that one expresses his gratitude. Furthermore, as noted by the Bais Yisrael, zl, the pasuk begins, V’amarta, “You shall say” and follows in pasuk…

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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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