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Parashat Ki Tavo

"May the Year End Along With Its Curses!!"

Rabbi Nissim Hakohen zs"l, the head of the court in Djerba and author of the work, "Ma'aseh Nissim," did not make a living from the rabbinate, preferring to work on his own for a livelihood. He was an expert goldsmith and the Creator bestowed great blessing upon his work. When he made enough for his livelihood, he would stop working and apply himself diligently to the study and teaching of Torah.

He acquired his skill at a very young age. He worked as an apprentice under Maimon Hakohen, a professional smith with a large family. He was rather poor, and was required to pay a fixed amount to his apprentice each week. When he noticed the boy's talent and skill, he implored him to stay on the job with him. However, as the poor smith was barely able to save an extra penny, and he could not afford to pay his apprentice on time. Week after week, Rabbi Nissim would work and not receive his due pay.

The young boy thought to himself, "If I demand my salary, he will not be able to pay me anyway. So why should I bring him to violate the prohibition of withholding payment from one's workers, which takes effect upon the employee's request of payment? Yet, on the other hand, if I allow the debt to grow and grow, I stand not a chance of receiving my money. What should I do?"

He thought for a while and devised a plan. He set aside a box among the junk in the back of the store, and from time to time he would throw small, left-over pieces of gold and silver into the boxes. The absence of these insignificant chips of metal would surely go unnoticed. Two years later, he finally turned to his employer and asked, "When will you pay my salary?"

Maimon answered, "Let's sit and calculate how much I owe you." The boy told him how many weeks he had worked and how much he is owed for each week. He multiplied the weekly earning by the number of weeks and Maimon's eyes darkened. He held his hands together in anguish and cried, "Where will I get this kind of money?"

The boy asked in wonderment, "What were you thinking all along, that you would simply ignore my salary and have me work for you for free?" Maimon gave a sigh, stared down at the ground, and remained silent. The boy got up and made his way to the back of store. He went through all the old trash and picked up his secret carton, which was, by now, quite heavy. He placed the box's contents on the scale, and Mimon's face brightened. He loaded coins onto the other scale and, behold, it amounted to more than his debt. Even better, there were even bits of pure gold, all of which amounted to a hefty sum. Maimon hugged his intelligent, young worker and said, "Blessed are you to Hashem, for if not for your idea I would have no way of paying you!"

Indeed this is what happened, but in the work, "Yosef Da'at" (on Yamim Noraim) this incident is brought as merely a parable relevant to our parashah as well as to the imminent Days of Awe. This Shabbat we will hear the "tochahah," the series of frightening curses which Moshe warns will befall the people upon their abandonment of the Torah. It is not coincidental that this reading is always read just prior to Rosh Hashanah. The Gemara teaches us (Megillah 31b), "Rabbi Shimon Ben Elazar says, Ezra instituted for Yisrael that they read the curses in Sefer Devarim before Rosh Hashanah...For what reason? Abaye says, in order that the year end along with its curses."

We find ourselves now in the month of Elul, the month of mercy and forgiveness, the month of retrospection. Anyone who takes a sincere look into himself will be seized with fright. In what condition is he about to stand before his Creator? How much has he sinned, Heaven forbid, with his tongue, speaking lashon hara, embarrassing and tormenting others? How much has he sinned, Heaven forbid, with his eyes, with his ears, by listening to forbidden speech? How many tefilot has he recited without concentrating, how much time has he wasted when he should have been studying Torah? How much food has he eaten that did not have the proper tithes removed or were not properly checked for bugs? Everything will be included in the grand calculation - how will we emerge with a favorable judgment? Where are the Torah and misvot to protect us?

But then, like a ray of light in a dark room, we remember that we have savings, so to speak, a box of suffering, Heaven forbid, which we have experienced. All the pressure and tension which has overcome us over the past year, all the worries and concerns, the pain and anguish, all the problems, crises, and shame - these will all be included in our account. These will all be put on the scale against the charges against us. We raise our eyes to the Heavens and plea, "May the year end together with its curses." From now on, Master of the World, we sincerely hope that we will no longer need this balance of pain and anguish. We hope to improve, to add to our misvot and reduce our averot, and You will never again have to decree evil decrees against us, but rather, "May the year begin along with its blessings!"

The Condition for Inheriting the Land

In our parashah, we read the misvah of bikkurim. The farmer brings his first fruits to the Bet Hamikdash and thanks the Creator for bringing him to this point: "Hashem took us out from Egypt with a strong hand...and He brought us to this place, and He gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey." Hazal explain (Sifri, 8), "'He brought us to this place' refers to the Bet Hamikdash. Perhaps it refers to the entirety of Eres Yisrael? When it says, 'and He gave us this land,' this refers to the Land of Israel. Therefore, 'He brought us to this place' must be referring to the Bet Hamikdash."

According to this interpretation, however, the order in the pasuk seems reversed. Didn't Benei Yisrael first enter the land, and only some time thereafter did they construct the Bet Hamikdash? So why does the pasuk mention the Bet Hamikdash before the nation's entry into the land? The Sifri answers, "Why does the pasuk say, 'He brought us to this place'? Because as a reward for having come to this place, He gave us this land!" In other words, the land was given to those who look towards the building of the Bet Hamikdash. The land is acquired by those who inhabit it in order to serve the Al-mighty in His home, as it were, with sanctity and purity. This is a precondition for the inheritance of the land. It is as if Hashem tells us, "If you want lives of kedushah, lives of Torah and misvot - then this is your place, in which you will live happily and with blessing. If not, then why are you here, you have the entire world before you!" As a reward for coming to the Bet Hamikdash, He gave us this land.

The Wonders of the Creator

The Woodpecker

The expression goes, "Go bang your head into a wall." Obviously, the intent is not that the individual in question should actually slam his own head into a wall. No one would insinuate such. Yet, there is one creature who bangs its head into a wall dozens of times in a single minute and feels nothing. This creature is the woodpecker.

The woodpecker is among the most interesting and beautiful birds. It lives up high on the trees and pecks at the bark searching for its food, small insects. Under the outer bark of the trees lie many different insects which are a favorite food of the woodpecker. Therefore, the hungry bird has to peck at the outer layer so that it can reach the insects for its meals. In order to do this, its Creator provided it with special provisions with which other birds are not equipped. It has an especially long and sharp beak which resembles a chisel. Its head is actually quite small, but its tongue is long, sharp, and scaled, capable of penetrating the holes where the insects live. Its feet are equipped with sharp nails which allow it to hold on tight to the bark of the tree as it pecks. Its solid tail helps, as well, as the woodpecker leans on it as it pecks. Furthermore, the Al-mighty provided the bird with an especially hard skull which is not harmed even if the woodpecker bangs its head into the tree for an entire day. But the wonder doesn't stop here. The woodpecker was granted a special sense through which it can always find the place where it should peck. It never pecks just for the sake of pecking. Whenever one finds a woodpecker busy at work, he can be sure that there is a nest of insects in that spot. The hole which the woodpecker makes also reflects great skill and acumen. The woodpecker is also just the right size - not too big and not too small - that the insects have no way of escaping. The woodpecker's banging its head against the tree has what to teach us humans, as well. It never bangs it head for naught. How much more so should a human being be careful not to "break his head" over nonsense and unimportant matters. Rather, one's energy should be invested in spiritual pursuits, most importantly the Torah, which is our spiritual nourishment: "The Torah of Hashem is whole, restoring the soul."

Measure for Measure

a continuing saga (part seven)

Flashback: A poor, gentle talmid hacham joined a Bet Midrash supported by a wealthy man who invited him into his home. He spoke with him about involved matters of Torah throughout the entire meal without offering the poor scholar anything to eat. He returned hungry to the Bet Midrash and continued learning diligently, and the wealthy man invited him once again for supper.

The wealthy man washed his hands with intense concentration as the poor scholar tried concentrating on the difficult question which his host had posed to him. However, he was unable to focus. The delicacies on the table aroused his hunger and the fragrant smell of the dishes reached his nose. The wealthy man recited the berachah over the bread, dipped it in salt and began eating. While the food was still in his mouth, he began exploring different angles of the subject in question, raising and rejecting different theories. The poor guest listened only partially, trying desperately to take his mind away from the food lying before him.

"And so, what do you say about this?" asked the wealthy host. The poor man trembled, as he did not know about what the man was talking. "About what?" he muttered.

"About the theory I just presented," responded the wealthy man. "It is a good theory, isn't it? It resolves all the questions."

"Yes, it seems like it," answered the poor man. The room was spinning around him, as he had not eaten in three days. "I did not fully understand it, would you mind reviewing it?"

The wealthy man's eyes glowed. He never anticipated such a compliment from a superstar scholar such as the one in his home, a talmid hacham with expertise in all areas of the Torah. There is no greater praise than to hear that even this scholar could not properly understand his suggestion. He immediately began going over his "sevara," explaining it in detail, and the poor man forced himself to concentrate. He realized that the theory is outright wrong. "What can I say, there is an explicit Tosafot which contradicts the entire theory!" He reviewed the words of Tosafot by heart, and, in an instant, the entire structure of logic which the wealthy man had built came crashing down. The wealthy man heard the response and said, "Well, we shouldn't die from a difficult 'kushya.' Wait until tomorrow and I will have an answer." He quickly recited birkat hamazon and stood up. "I will look into it," he declared, "and in the morning I will prove that I am correct."

But, alas, the opportunity never presented itself. The poor man left and decided to make his way to the city, where hopefully he could find something to eat. Perhaps somebody will see how hungry he is and bring him into his home. Upon his arrival to the center of town, his hunger took hold of him, and he collapsed to the ground.

To be continued....

The Golden Column

Rabbi Masoud Edrei ZS"L

The sadik, Rabbi Masoud Edrei was well experienced in the performance of miracles. He was "the sadik from Rosh Pinah" (as his biography is called) and the rabbi of the settlement, "Mishmar Hayam" near Acco. He saved many people through the performance of many miracles. He would decree and the Al-mighty would fulfill his wishes, and the forces of impurity trembled in his presence.

Of all the great stories of wonder, we chose one, an incident which relates to the time of year and, furthermore, involves a critical lesson for all of us. We cannot perform miracles, but actions such as the following lie within our powers. Three years after the sadik's passing, his wife, may she live and be well, traveled to Meron. On the way, she heard the other women discuss the miracles and wonders performed by a certain sadik. Finally, she interrupted and asked, "About whom are you speaking?" They responded, "About Rabbi Masoud Edrei, of Mishmar Hayam." The rabbanit said, "Yes, I knew him. I was privileged to be his wife." They immediately turned to her with excitement and continued their great praises for Rabbi Masoud. One woman, who had been sitting off to the side, had remained silent throughout the conversation. Finally, she spoke up. "I do not know anything about miracles, but I do have one story." They all turned to hear what she had to say. "We were bitterly impoverished, we could barely afford enough bread for our children. Around the time of Rosh Hashanah, the sadik would bring to our home meat, the head of a lamb, and the other symbols of the festival, in order that we may celebrate the Yom Tov with joy. He would come each Erev Yom Tov to provide us with our needs for the holiday." The rabbanit responded, "This is the first time that I heard about this. I was mistaken when I said that I knew him. He managed to successfully conceal his righteousness."

>From the Wellsprings of the Parasha

"It will be, when you enter the land which Hashem, your G-d, gives you"

Hazal say that the expression, "Vehayah" ("it will be") implies joy. The Or Hahayim zs"l explains that although the Jews enjoyed miraculous, divine protection over the course of their forty years in the wilderness, the Clouds of Glory encircled them, the pillar of fire guided their path continuously, Moshe led the way, the mann provided them with food and the well with water - they were, nevertheless, bereft of joy, as one cannot rejoice so long as he has yet to reach his final destination, no matter how glorious the trip may be. This serves as a critical lesson for each and every one of us, that we should look forward to the complete redemption along whose road we currently find ourselves, as the pasuk states, "...When Hashem restores the restoration of Zion, we will have been like dreamers. Only then will our mouths be filled with laughter, and our tongues with joy!"

The Hid"a zs"l asks, the phrase, "noten" ("gives," related to the word, "matanah," "gift") implies the giving of a gift, whereas "nahalah" means "inheritance," that which one legally receives from his predecessors. Yet, in our pasuk, both expressions appear in the context of Eres Yisrael. How could the land be, on the one hand, an inheritance, which we receive automatically from our forefathers, and, at the same time, a gift from the Al-mighty? He explains that there exist two concurrent qualities to the Land of Israel. On the one hand, as stated, we receive it naturally as an inheritance from our ancestors. However, once we accepted the Torah, the Al-mighty instilled within the land an added element of kedushah, a greater presence of the Shechinah. This, indeed, is a great gift, above and beyond what we inherit from our forefathers.

Rabbenu Abir Yaakov Abuhassera zs"l cites Hazal's assertion that "vehayah" ("it will be") implies joy. But, in truth, how can an individual truly rejoice in this world? When a person has one hundred coins he wants two hundred. And when he eventually gets two hundred, he wants four hundred. Poverty is awful, and wealth, as well, results in frustration - "One who has many possessions has many worries." He is never content with is lot or secure with his wealth. Thus, as it would seem, there can be no genuine happiness in this world. However, there is but one path to true joy. "It will be" - an expression of joy - "when you enter the land which Hashem, your G-d, gives you as an inheritance." Meaning, if one realizes that everything comes from the Al-mighty, and nobody can ever infringe upon that which his friend deserves, by nature of Divine Providence, then there is no reason for worry or concern, and, consequently, one can experience true joy.

Rabbi Sevi Didi of Teveryah zs"l said, woe unto those who come to the sacred land and reject the Torah, as the pasuk states, "It will be, when you enter the shall take from the 'resheet' [first]," and Hazal say that "resheet" refers to the Torah, meaning, that we must take Torah for ourselves upon our entry into the land.


Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

Arranged by Rav Moshe Yossef shlit"a

Rosh Bet Midrash "Meor Yisrael"

One Who "Thinks" a Berachah In His Mind

Regarding one who recites a berachah in his mind, without actually saying it with his lips, there are several different points to consider. If the berachah in question constitutes a Biblical obligation, such as birkat hamazon, then the individual must recite the berachah properly, and has not fulfilled his requirement by merely thinking the berachah in his mind. Regarding other berachot, which are only "miderabanan," if one recited a berachah rishonah over food in his mind, without his lips, then he should resolve in his mind not to eat anymore from the food for which he "recited" the berachah, and to demonstrate his nullification of his blessing he should recite, "Baruch shem kevod malchuto le'olam va'ed." He may then recite the berachah properly, with his lips, and continue eating. This halachah applies even to one who started eating after his non-verbal berachah, for even though he already ate with an improper berachah, he should not continue eating anymore before canceling that berachah and reciting a new one properly. However, if, after he finished eating, the individual said in his mind a berachah aharonah, since the Rambam and the Semag are of the opinion that one fulfills his obligation through a non-verbal recitation (and there is no way to cancel his berachah aharonah), we cannot tell the individual to recite a new berachah, for according to these rishonim the new berachah would be an unwarranted berachah ("berachah levatalah"). And although the Mehaber rules that thinking a berachah is not tantamount to an actual recitation, nevertheless the principle that one should never recite a berachah when its obligation is in question applies even when the doubt involves views against that of the Mehaber. However, one who wishes to follow the ruling of the Mehaber and recite a new berachah in such a situation may do so, despite the fact that strictly speaking we would not suggest that a person do so. Regarding a berachah over a misvah which one recited to himself without verbalizing, Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a (Yabia Omer vol. 4, 50:17) rules that here, too, one should nullify the berachah by reciting "Baruch shem..." and then properly recite a new berachah. In this way, he appropriately satisfies all views.

The aharonim write that the severe prohibition of reciting Hashem's Name in vain applies only when he actually verbalizes the Name of Hashem, but merely thinking the Name involves no violation. Thus, in all situations when the requirement for a given berachah is in doubt, in which case we always rule NOT to recite the berachah, the individual should preferably think the berachah in his heart, since at least according to the Rambam and the Semag this constitutes a valid berachah, as we have seen, and yet one can never violate the prohibition of reciting Hashem's Name in vain in such a manner. (See ibid., 12.)

The Orhot Hayim writes that one who, for some reason, is unable to verbalize a berachah, such as a gravely ill patient, can think the berachah to himself and then proceed to eat. Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a (ibid., 20) rules that whenever one said a berachah in his mind because of a pressing need, even if that need (such as the illness) passes while he is in the middle of eating, he may continue eating and does not need to interrupt to recite a new berachah. This applies as well to birkat hamazon or any berachah aharonah. The reason is that since according to the Orhot Hayim, as we have seen, thinking a berachah is effective in a situation of a pressing need, we have a "double doubt" - maybe the halachah is like the Rambam and the Semag that thinking a berachah in one's mind always counts as a berachah, and even if not, perhaps the halachah follows the Orhot Hayim, that in such a case of a pressing need thinking a berachah suffices. Therefore, even when the dire condition passes he does not require a new berachah.

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