Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 23   No. 51

This issue is sponsored in honour of Mrs. Blanche Bank
on the occasion of her 87th birthday
by her loving son and family.
May she go from strength to strength.

Parshas Ki Savo

To Uphold the Torah from A. to Z.
(Based on the Ramban)

"Cursed be the man who does not uphold the words of this Torah to fulfil them; and all the people said "Omein" (27:26).

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At this point, Rashi explains, K'lal Yisrael accepted upon themselves the whole Torah with a curse (upon someone who rejects it) and an oath.

The Ramban, elaborating on this curse, explains that they took upon themselves to observe every Mitzvah in the Torah, unconditionally. A person who drops even one Mitzvah, is subject to a curse. In Parshas Va'eschanan and Re'ei we learned that one is forbidden to detract from the Mitzvos or to add to them. Here the Torah adds a curse to someone who does so as a matter of principle.

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One reason for the prohibition of making any change to the Torah is because just as G-d Himself is perfect, so too, is His Torah perfect, as David ha'Melech wrote in Tehilim (19:8). And something that is perfect is not subject to change. Indeed, changing it automatically renders it imperfect.

Another reason is because we are G-d's servants. He is our Master, and we are duty-bound to perform His commands unequivocally. Consequently, we have no authority to tamper with His Mitzvos by subtracting from them or by adding to them.

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There are those who chip away at the Mitzvos to suit their modern tastes, a little here, a little there. But the slightest change to the perfect Torah creates an imbalance, stripping the entire Torah of its Divine character. It can be compared to the carpenter of Chelm, who was once called to repair the Shul table, as one of the legs seemed to be a little short. He studied the legs and began chipping away at the other three legs. He soon realized however, that he had inadvertently cut away a little - just a little, too much. And so he continued cutting, just a little too much each time, until the Shul table had no legs. And that's precisely what happens to the Mitzvos when short-sighted man starts chipping away at them.

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Moreover, the incredible notion that a mortal, in all his vulnerability, can somehow improve on the work of His Creator can be compared to someone who removes what he perceives as a redundant part of a complex machine, causing the entire machine to fall apart. Anyone in his right mind knows that one is well-advised to avoid interfering with a machine of which he knows little. Surely then, a simple human-being should know better than to interfere with the workings of the Ultimate Expert. On the contrary, he ought to know that by following His instructions to the letter, he is heading towards perfection.

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The Tochachah
(Based on the Ramban)

The Ramban in Parshas Bechukosai (26:16) points out that the Tochachah there refers to the first Galus. The Tochachah in Ki Savo, he explains, refers to the second Galus. Here are eleven of the proofs that he cites to support this.

1. Unlike the first Tochachah, which refers to an unconditional return to our land when the time arrives, the Torah here leaves no hint regarding the termination of the Galus, other than 'when we do Teshuvah' (See final paragraph).

2. Whereas the first Tochachah speaks about Avodah-Zarah - an obvious reference to the main cause of the first Galus, the Torah here attributes the Galus to the fact that they did not keep all the Mitzvos. This is because idolatry was the one sin of which Yisrael were not guilty in the era of the second Beis-Hamikdash, since Ezra had abolished the Yeitzer-Hara for Avodah-Zarah.

3. No mention is made here of the cessation of the Korbanos prior to the destruction of the Beis-Hamikdash, as the Torah did in Bechukosai. That is because many aspects of Korbanos were anyway missing throughout the period of the second Beis-Hamikdash.

4. In Ki Savo, the Torah describes a nation that will come from afar, a nation whose language Yisrael will not know, a clear reference to the Romans. The first Galus of course, was brought about by the Babylonians, who came from close by and with whose language they were familiar.

The Ramban might have added that the Torah compares the Roman invaders to an eagle - and as is well-known, the emblem of Rome was an eagle.

5. & 6. The Torah writes here that "G-d will return you to Egypt in ships" (which came true when the Romans sent boatloads of Jewish captives to Egypt), and that He will "scatter you among the nations, from one end of the earth to the other" which was fulfilled , as we see still today.

7. In the first Galus, the entire nation (those that remained alive) went into exile to Bavel, and the land remained desolate, to earn the seventy years rest that it was denied when Yisrael did not observe the Sh'mitah.

Here the Torah talks of "Your sons and daughters going into captivity". The Romans, as is well-known, were not interested in the elderly - even not their own, and certainly not those of other nations. Consequently, the old men and women remained in Eretz Yisrael, under the Romans who treated them with inconceivable cruelty.

8. The Torah also writes here about going into Galus together with the king that "you will appoint over yourselves" - a clear reference to Agrippa the 2nd, whom they sat on the throne, even though he was not eligible to reign.

9.-11. Finally, the Torah writes here, that our enemies will derive no satisfaction from Eretz Yisrael whilst we are in Galus and it talks about parents eating their children during the famine that will prevail during the period of the Churban, both of which materialized during the second Churban but not during the first. And it predicts that, following the salvation when it arrives, we will find life far more rewarding than what it ever was before, a situation that did not take place when they returned from Bavel, but which we can rest assured, we will experience with the coming of Mashi'ach.

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The connection between the second redemption and Teshuvah cited by the Ramban in his first proof, does not actually appear in Ki Savo, but is mentioned extensively in Nitzavim (chapter 30).

The prediction that links the two is particularly inspiring today in light of the unprecedented Teshuvah movement that began within living memory and that grows from day to day in leaps and bounds. It is surely a sign that Mashi'ach is on our doorstep. May we merit be Zocheh to greet him in the immediate future.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from R. Bachye)

Who Wrote the Tochachah?

R. Bachye, citing a tradition that the entire Torah, from "Bereishis" till "le'einei kol Yisrael", was written by Moshe but dictated by G-d, explains that Seifer Devarim, including the Tochachos in this Parshah, was authored by G-d, and transcribed by Moshe. And when the Gemara in Megilah (31b) states that 'The curses in Mishnah were said by Moshe himself', it means that, unlike those in Vayikra, he was mechaven (knew instinctively) to what G-d had in mind

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The Beis-Hamikdash and the Shechinah

The reason for the above-mentioned distinction (between the two Tochachos) is due to the fact that whereas the Shechinah was ever-present in the first Beis-Hamikdash - therefore the Galus that followed its destruction is written in the Name of the Shechinah; in the second Beis-Hamikdash, the Shechinah "hovered" (It was only present occasionally). Consequently, the Tochachah following its destruction is not written in Its name (but in the name of Moshe).

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Regarding the third Beis-Hamikdash, the Navi writes "Arise and shine for your light has arrived and the glory of Hashem will shine upon you. Because darkness will cover the earth , and a thick cloud, the nations, but upon you G-d will shine and upon You His glory will be seen." (Yeshayah 60:1/2).

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Reassuring Yisrael

"And you arrived in this place; and Sichon king of Cheshbon and Og, king of Bashan came out to attack you And we took their land " (29:6/7).

These two Pesukim do not really belong here, comments Rabeinu Bachye; and the Torah only inserts them to reassure Yisrael that they would conquer Eretz Yisrael. Because just as they conquered the lands of Sichon and Og, who were part of 'the seven nations', took over their land and distributed it among the two and a half tribes, so too, would they succeed in conquering the rest of Eretz Yisrael, and distribute it among the nine and a half tribes.

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