Parashat Ki Tavo
OUR PREPARATION FOR ROSH HASHANAH
We have a tradition from our ancestors that the weekly perasha and its
latent messages relate and are integrally connected to the time of year
during which the perasha is read. Already the Gemara notes the
between the "tochahah," the collection of unspeakable curses that will
befall Benei Yisrael, Heaven forbid, upon their neglect of the Torah,
in our perasha, to the time of period when it is read - the end of the
By reading this perasha specifically during this period, we express our
that "the year shall end together with its curses; the year shall begin
together with its blessings." But the beginning of the perasha, too,
relates directly to this period, two weeks before Rosh Hashanah, right in
the middle of the month of mercy and Selihot, in the height of our
preparations for the Day of Judgment.
The perasha opens with the missva of bikkurim. The farmer walks into his
field, sees that the first fig or grape has ripened, and ties a string
around the fruit, indicating that it is the first. No matter where he
lives, no matter how difficult a trip it may be, he makes his way to
Yerushalayim where he undergoes the process of purification from his state
of "tum'ah" and ascends to Har Habayit with songs and praises. He brings
the fruits to the kohen and declares emotionally, "I have come here today
Hashem your G-d," as Rashi explains, "and I am not ungrateful."
Hashem has given me a field, He has blessed me with trees, He has produced
fruits therein - I am not ungrateful!
Perhaps the primary "hiddush" of this perasha is that mere verbal
of gratitude does not suffice. It is not sufficient merely to feel
appreciation and say, Thank you. One's sense of appreciation must yield
action. But not just small, simple actions. The farmer takes his
fruits, travels to the Holy City and arrives in the Bet Hamikdash with a
decorative basket filled with fruits and lifts it up on the mizbei'ah. He
then must recite the declaration of "mikra bikkurim" and bequeath the
to the kohen.
Anything less than this reflects a certain deficiency in the individual's
sense of gratitude towards the Al-mighty. Failure to fully comply with
procedure indicates that his appreciation is shallow, not deep-rooted, and
Four hundred and thirty years ago, a family migrated from Yemen to Eress
Yisrael, where they underwent the grueling process of absorption. The
parents soon passed away, leaving behind a penniless orphan named Yeshuah.
Out of poverty and solitude, he was compelled to sleep out in the field
live off the wild vegetation and whatever scraps of food he could find.
Eventually, the mercy of a certain man was aroused towards the boy, and he
adopted him. The new parents supported the young man, thereby allowing
to devote his time and energy to diligent Torah study, and he studied
Rabbi Besalel Ashkenazi zs"l, author of the "Shitah Mekubesset," and Rabbi
Hayyim Vital zs"l. The boy grew and ultimately emerged as one of the
giants of his generation. His benefactor, by contrast, did not study and
had difficulty even with mishnayot. As an expression of gratitude, Rabbi
Yeshuah sat and composed for his adopter an encompassing work on the
mishnayot. He thus benefited all of Am Yisrael with his great commentary
the mishnayot, "Melechet Shelomoh."
This is how one expresses gratitude!
If only we could impress this message upon our hearts, if only we were
infused with this recognition of the obligation of gratitude, how much
different would our lives be, how much more fulfilling and enriching!
Children would recognize the endless sense of gratitude owed to their
parents who gave them their very lives, who raised them with such devotion
and immense love, who gave them everything - a home, clothing, food, etc.
And the parents, in turn, would recognize their debt of gratitude towards
their children. After all, it is they who bring joy and excitement into
home. How lonely would the house be without them! Not to mention the
feeling of gratitude towards one's spouse. Hazal teach us, "One who opens
the door to his friend - he owes him his life!" And, as we know, "It is
good for man to be alone," in lonely solitude and isolation. Given that
everyone is but "half a person," supplemented by his spouse, how much
gratitude is owed between husband and wife, how much must one appreciate
spouse, with whom he builds his family nest. And, as we noted, feelings
emotion are just not enough. One's sense of appreciation must find
expression in the form of action towards the other, in clear demonstration
of gratitude and valuation. If we would conduct ourselves in this manner,
the family unit would be ever more stable, there would be no disunity and
contention within the home, and certainly there would be no divorce.
Taking this one step further, if the entire procedure described in our
perasha comprises the necessary mode of expression for first-fruits, then
can only imagine how much is required to sufficiently express our
appreciation for our lives and health. Once again, we must recognize that
expression of gratitude must take the form of concrete action so as to
entrench it in the soul and have it flow from the heart. If we would only
think along these lines, if we could understand that we must "bring
bikkurim" not only for fruits but for our very lives, if we would
as it were, to Hashem an hour a day, an hour of public prayer, an hour of
Torah study, of listening to a Torah class and performance of kindness
towards other other!
The Al-mighty provides us with a livelihood, he supplies us with food,
clothing and all our needs. The concept of gratitude obligates us to
express our appreciation through concrete action, to "bring bikkurim" from
our resources, to give sedaka and involve ourselves in kindness, to
those in need and Torah institutions.
If we take advantage of these next two weeks to entrench within us a
sense of gratitude and commit ourselves to express it properly, then this
constitutes the best means of preparation for Rosh Hashanah. Y
THE STONES AND THE BOOKS
In our perasha, Moshe commands Benei Yisrael that upon their crossing into
Eress Yisrael, they are to take large stones, plaster them and write on
the Torah in all languages. What is the purpose behind this commandment?
"So as not to allow the other nations the possibility of saying, 'We had
nowhere from where to learn the Torah'" (Rashi, Masechet Sotah 35b). The
Gemara (ibid.) teaches us, "On account of this they were sentenced to
destruction, for they should have learned, but they did not."
About whom is the Gemara speaking? About nations that had plummeted to
lowest moral abyss, upon whom a decree of destruction was issued by Hashem
on account of "the abominations of Canaan." They were the very worst of
nations, inheritors of the curse to Canaan. Nevertheless, even in the
height of the war of annihilation that they conducted against the foreign
intruders, since they were aware of Torah and missvot, they had heard of
Revelation and the giving of the Torah, they knew that the precepts of the
Torah were available in any language, "they should have learned, but they
did not." Specifically on account of this, they were sentenced to
elimination, Heaven forbid!
If so, then what about us, the sacred people, the children of Avraham,
Yishak and Yaakov, scions of generations of people who sanctified the Name
of G-d, who know full well that the Torah is written and available - not
some stones over in Gilgal, but in enlightening, easily accessible books,
works of halacha of clearly formulated laws - how much more so must we
ensure not to become like the abominable nations of Canaan, that it is
said of us, "They should have learned, but they did not."
The wonders of the creator
The Arms of the Octopus
The most dazzling feature for researchers regarding the octopus is, of
course, its unique arms. The length of its arms ranges from five
centimeters to five meters. Along the length of each arm, on the side
towards the mouth, are located two parallel rows of approximately three
hundred suction cups. These are used as fingers that facilitate efficient
grabbing as well as sensory limbs, as they contain a large number of both
mechanical and chemical sensory cells. The arms of other creatures are
solid surfaces with joints that allow for the bending of the arm at that
particular point. What's so remarkable about the octopus is that its arms
consist almost entirely of small muscle fibers that are crowded together
tightly. This unique arrangement of the octopus' its arms that it
from the Creator allows it to retain its volume during every motion. It
capable of instantly changing the function of its flexible arms from
facilitating walking to facilitating swimming, attacking or gliding in any
direction. The arms can change their length and become longer or shorter
needed. As if this is not enough, they can also revolve around their
in both directions. The arm of the octopus is a most wondrous example of
blend between free motion and efficient and precise control of movement.
For this reason, researches hope to learn from this system how to deal
the issues involving the construction of robots with flexible arms.
Researchers claim that the arm of the octopus is capable of an infinite
number of different motions. Indeed, the octopus' arms circumvent all
obstacles and, with the help of its sensors, they can carefully examine
scrutinize the surrounding territory. Interestingly, an arm that has been
detached from the octopus' body behaves in certain ways as if it is still
attached to the octopus. This type of behavior of an arm is possible only
when it possesses a sophisticated and independent nervous system in large
measure. And, indeed, at the center of the octopus' arm along the entire
length runs a most advanced and complex nervous system. Additionally, the
octopus' arms feature amazing rehabilitation capabilities. Occasionally,
octopus will lose part of its arm during battle with its enemies or while
catching food. Within just a few weeks, a brand new arm grows in, one
identically resembles the original arm in every detail.
How wonderful it would be if a person was able to receive this gift, the
ability to grow a new limb after an injury. We Jews, who are all
as part of a single body, do, in fact, have the ability of renewal.
A Jew who, for whatever reason, lives not in accordance with Judaism and
missvot, can never lose hope. In His infinite mercy, the Al-mighty grants
him the ability of renewal, through the process of sincere teshuva.
The Deserted Woman of Jerusalem
a continuing saga
Flashback: Maharil Diskin, zs"l, the "Saraf" of Brisk, instructed
Mereishah, the deserted woman of Jerusalem, to go to Paris to find her
husband. The funding was to be provided by the "General Council." The
council administration referred her to Rabbi Shemuel Salant, the rabbi of
Jerusalem. His secretary, Rabbi Feivel Hirshberg, expressed his disbelief
over the Maharil's instructions that the council should fund the trip.
Rabbi Shemuel thus sent Rabbi Feivel to go the rav of Brisk and ask him
about his order. Rabbi Feivel soon returned, his face reflecting the
profound impression of his meeting with the Saraf.
Rabbi Feivel reported, "This is what he said: 'The husband said that he
going to France, and, if he is going to France, then it stands to reason
that he will go to Paris. She should therefore go to Paris and try to
his footsteps. The General Council should unquestionably fund the trip as
well as bear the burden of supporting her children until she returns.'"
Rabbi Shemuel swallowed his smile. "And you listened without responding?"
In Rabbi Shemuel's home, Rabbi Feivel couldn't contain himself and burst
in vehement opposition to the plan!
"I responded, of course I responded!" the secretary cried warmly. "I
politely asked him, 'How is she to trace the footsteps of her husband?'
which he answered, 'She will ask the rabbi.'"
"Thus," concluded Rabbi Shemuel, "we have two witnesses to the order of
Saraf. Rabbi Shelomoh Zalman Parush heard it from him, and now you
listened to the instructions directly from the rav of Brisk. The General
Council will therefore fund the woman's trip and the children will remain
under its supervision. With Hashem's help, we will look after them and
sure that they don't suffer at all or lack anything until their mother
returns. But one thing we ask, for the sake of the children: that she
us from every place she goes, so that the children are not without both a
father and mother."
Rabbi Shelomoh Zalman Parush, the exemplary embodiment of kindness, worked
on behalf of Mereishah to arrange all the paperwork for her trip and
supplied her with sufficient money for the long journey ahead from the
of the General Council. He purchased her ticket for the boat ride and
escorted her to Jaffa Gate, to the convoy going down to the port. As he
said good-bye, he reminded himself that she is traveling at the orders of
the Saraf of Brisk. Undoubtedly, she will see the fulfillment of the
dictum, "Whoever consults the elders, succeeds."
The driver whipped the horses and the wagon departed, leaving behind a
giant cloud of dust. Rabbi Shelomoh Zalman escorted the wagon for a while
and then stood until it was out of sight. Only then did he return to the
city gate, his lips muttering a prayer for the deserted woman's success on
her journey.to be continued...
The Golden Column
The Hid"a zs"l
Our perasha opens with the missva of bringing the bikkurim,
whose central theme is expression of gratitude: "I have come here today to
Hashem your G-d - and I am not ungrateful" (Rashi). We may learn the
of our obligation to sense and express gratitude from the words of the
zs"l (Midbar Kedemot, the section "kefui tovah"). He writes that he heard
from a G-d-fearing, missva-observant man that he was asked where the
punishment for ungratefulness in found in the Torah. He responded that
although Edom refused to allow Benei Yisrael passage through its territory
and threatened military retaliation, Hashem was not angered. He was
however, with the insensitive conduct of Amon and Moav towards Benei
Yisrael: "An Amonite or Moavite may not join the Congregation of Hashem.on
account of the fact that they did not greet you with bread and water."
Since Avraham had endangered his life in order to save Lot, the father of
Amon and Moav, these nations' refusal to assist Avraham's descendants
demonstrated their lack of appreciation and gratitude, and were therefore
The Hid"a continues, "I write this so as not to be ungrateful, because in
his time of distress, misfortune and suffering, this aforementioned
G-d-fearing man still performed an abundance of kindness on my behalf. In
his merit, then, I have written this. And the 'Panim Me'irot' and Rabbenu
Yehuda Hahasid have already taught us that one does not need to mention
name, because the Al-mighty knows all that is concealed, and his lips
continue speaking, and He repays a person in accordance with his actions
From the Hid"a's words, it is clear that his benefactor had already died.
As such, mentioning his name would certainly not have constituted,
one's friend in a loud voice is considered a curse for him" (Masechet
Arachin 16, because guests might come to him in droves and consume all his
money). The question therefore begs itself, why did the Hid"a zs"l insist
on concealing the man's identity?Another question arises from this
as well. The Hid"a was the pillar of Torah, familiar and proficient in
areas of Torah knowledge. He undoubtedly knew that the "novel
interpretation" of the righteous man to whom he refers is explicit in the
Ramban's commentary to that pasuk (Devarim 23:5). But he makes no
to the Ramban's comments whatsoever!In truth, this is part of the lesson
expressing gratitude, and one question is answered by the other. The
printed this idea in the name of the host, rather than the Ramban, in
that "his lips speak in the grave." However, he did not reveal the man's
name so as not to embarrass him over the fact that he did not know an
From the Wellsprings of the Parasha
"And you shall come to the kohen who will be during those days"
Hazal comment, "You have only the kohen of your time." The Siftei Kohen
zs"l explains that the Al-mighty appoints a kohen and leader for a
generation in correspondence to their level, as the pasuk states, "The
nation shall be like the kohen." As the Gemara teaches us, even the
superintendent of a well is appointed to his post by heavenly decree.
Therefore, our pasuk states, "that will be in those days," meaning, in
accordance with the level of the generation and that which is appropriate
for them. And since the appointment of leaders evolves from the heavens,
one must afford them honor, as the honor is ultimately directed towards
source of the appointment, the Al-mighty Himself. Furthermore, since the
kohen fills the place of none other than Aharon HaKohen, we must respect
as if he actually is Aharon. The pasuk therefore says, "el Hakohen," to
KOHEN, referring to the quintessential kohen, Aharon.
"And you shall take from the first of all the fruits of the ground"
The Hid"a zs"l cites the story recorded in the Midrash of a man who owned
field that annually produced one thousand "kur" (the Talmudic unit of
agricultural volume). Accordingly, the man would give a tithe of one
hundred kur. After his death, his son, who inherited the field, stingily
refused to give the tithe and kept the entire yield for himself.
Consequently, the field went bad and produced only one hundred kur. The
was greatly distressed, and his relatives came to comfort him, dressed in
festive garb and bearing vibrant and exuberant countenances. He asked
"Did you come to rejoice in my trouble and poke fun at my distress?" They
answered, "G-d forbid. We have come to congratulate you on your new
position!" He had no idea what they were talking about. They explained,
"In the past, your father was the landowner and gave the tithe to the
the representative of the Creator. Now, you have gone up a level - the
Creator took for Himself ninety percent, as the owner of the field, and
received one-tenth like the kohen!" The son understood the implication,
began giving the required tithes. The field then returned to its formal
state of fertility and produced its annual one thousand kur.
The Hid"a zs"l explains that the son was not, in fact, punished. In its
natural state, the field was capable of producing only a hundred kur. But
the giving of the tithe invoked a special blessing that multiplied its
This, then, is the meaning of our pasuk: "And you shall take from the
of all the fruits of the ground." If you take off the necessary tithes
the produce, then in the following year you will already give "all the
fruits of the ground," meaning, the quantity of last year's entire yield
will now be given as a tithe, because the field will produce ten times the
"I have come here today to Hashem your G-d "
The commentaries on the Pesah Haggadah explain that the difference between
the question of the wise son and that of the wicked son is that the wise
refers to the Al-mighty as "Hashem our G-d," whereas the wicked son
himself from the rest of the nation by asking cynically, "What is this
service for you?" He implies that the service applies to everyone else,
to him. The question then arises, why did the Torah mandate that the
bringing bikkurim to the kohen should say, "I have come here today to
your G-d," removing himself from the general community?
Rabbenu Behaye zs"l explains that undoubtedly, the level of faith and
spiritual comprehension of the kohen, who serves in the Bet Hamikdash, far
surpasses that of the farmer who is occupied with his land and toils day
night for his livelihood. However, bringing the bikkurim to the Bet
Hamikdash raises the farmer to the exalted level of the kohen and allows
the same profound insight.. Therefore, he may rightfully say, "I have
here today to Hashem your G-d"!
Halachic decisions according to Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
arranged in the order of the Shulchan Aruch
By Rav David Yossef shlit"a
Rosh Bet Midrash "Yehaveh Da'at"
Chapter 8: The Laws of Ssissit
Some opinions maintain that the ssissit strings should not be made from
linen, and the Rema writes that this is the accepted practice. However,
Bet Yossef does not accept this view as halacha, and therefore one who
cannot wear a woolen garment with woolen strings (so as to fulfill the
obligation according to all views) may place linen strings on a garment of
silk or other material, including linen.
Even according to the Ashkenazim, who follow the rulings of the Rema, one
who has only linen ssissit strings may use them for a garment of linen or
other material, with the obvious exception of wool, because placing linen
strings on a woolen garment constitutes a violation of shaatnez.
One may place ssissit strings made of wool on a garment made from cotton,
we are not concerned that the cotton resembles linen and thus the entire
garment may look like shaatnez. To the contrary, it is preferable to make
woolen ssissit for a cotton garment.
Ssissit strings of silk may be affixed to a garment of silk. Despite the
fact that silk is derived from the silkworm, a non-kosher species, it is
still permissible, since a kosher species is required only for tefillin,
Sefer Torah and mezuza, in accordance with the pasuk, "In order that the
Torah of Hashem shall be in your mouth" (Shemot 13:9), which is understood
by Hazal as meaning, from that which is permitted to your mouth (Shabbat
28b). No such requirement, however, exists with regard to ssissit, and
ssissit may be made from even camel-wool or wool of any other non-kosher
One who can acquire only ssissit that are neither of wool nor the same
material as the garment, such as one who has a silk garment and can find
only cotton ssissit, may not place them on the garment. If he did put
strings on the garment, he may not wear the garment, and he may obviously
not recite a beracha on such a garment.
If a garment was woven from threads that each contain two materials, such
threads spun half from cotton and half from silk, then ssissit of wool
should be placed on the garment, since, as we have seen, woolen ssissit
valid for garments of all materials.
But if one of the two materials used in the manufacture of the strings is
the majority, then although it is preferable to use woolen ssissit for
a garment, nevertheless one may, if he wishes, place on the garment
of the majority material of the garment. For example, if each thread is
spun mostly from cotton and less than half from silk, and the individual
wishes to place cotton ssissit on the garment, he may do so. However, he
may not affix to the garment ssissit of the minority material. Similarly,
if a garment was woven partially from threads of one material and
from a garment of another material, for example pure cotton threads woven
together with pure silk threads, then the individual may place on the
garment ssissit of the majority material. Preferably, though, he should
woolen ssissit, as they are valid for all materials, as we have discussed.
If the threads along the length of the garment are made of one material
the threads along the breadth are of another material, then even if one
material constitutes the majority of the garment one may not use ssissit
from the majority material, and only woolen ssissit may be used for his
If a garment is made from materials other than wool or linen, and on some
corners ssissit of the same material as the garment were used but on the
other corners woolen or linen ssissit were used, then the validity of such
garment is in question. This is because there is a doubt whether or not
the ssissit have to be of the same material, meaning, either entirely of
same material as the garment or entirely of wool or linen. Therefore, one
should be stringent and not wear such a garment , and certainly such a
garment should not be used for the fulfillment of the missva of
ssissit and a beracha should not be recited.
THE TREASURE THAT PURSUES US
Our perasha promises us many great blessings if we observe the missvot:
".then all these berachot will come upon you and catch up to you, for you
will listen to the voice of Hashem your G-d." Rabbenu Yossef Hayyim zs"l,
the Ben Ish Hai, asks, what is meant by the promise, "[the blessings will]
catch up to you"? If we are promised that the blessings will come, then
course they will reach us! He answers with the following story.
A woman once asked her husband to buy a fish for them to eat. He wasn't
excited about the idea, but, after she persisted, he agreed. A lot of
happened to have been brought to the market that day, so the price
drastically. The man went to the market and asked to buy a certain
delicious fish. The merchant told him that for the same price he could
a giant fish, only of much lower quality and with a bitter taste.
Understandably, the man refused. The merchant then offered to sell him
larger fish at half-price, but the man still refused. When the merchant
lowered the price to one-fourth of the original amount, the man came up
a plan. He paid the few coins and carried the fish home. His plan was to
secretly sneak into the kitchen and quickly cut up the fish into many
pieces, so that his wife wouldn't be able to recognize the type of fish.
Even if she could identify the fish, she couldn't have him bring it back,
because it was already cut into small pieces. When he cut the fish open,
found inside a giant, sparkling pearl. He rinsed the pearl and hurried
to a merchant dealing in precious stones. The merchant was amazed by the
find and offered a huge sum of money for its purchase. The merchant asked
how he acquired the pearl, so he told him the entire story. The merchant
was struck by the story and exclaimed, "That's exactly how I made my
fortune! My father had taken ill and the doctor told him that he needed
breathe the air of the ocean. He rented a tent in a vacation spot by the
seashore and, since the vacation season had yet to get underway, he could
set up his tent wherever he wanted. He pitched his tent in one place and
then changed his mind; he brought his tent somewhere else but still wasn't
happy. He tried a third spot and, as he was hammering in the pegs, he hit
against a solid surface. He dug underneath and discovered a box full of
precious jewels, a treasure that was hidden there many years earlier. You
see how much your wife had to persist to get you to buy the fish - and
it took my father to chance upon that specific spot!"
The Ben Ish Hai thus explained our pasuk according to this story. "All
these blessings will come upon you," and even if you try to avoid them,
"they will catch up to you," even against your will!
We invest so much time and effort pursuing wealth and happiness, and we
all too well that they often elude our pursuit. We experience
disappointment and suffer serious financial loss.
Perhaps the best piece of advice is to invest this same time and energy
the pursuit of missvot. We will then earn an immense spiritual treasure,
and the blessings, as well, will begin following us and catch up to us.
there be any greater fortune than that?