Gleaned from the Sfas Emes

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Parshas Ki Savo

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The last of a long list of calamities that will befall Am Yisroel if they continue to sin...

“And G-d will cause your return to Egypt in ships... And you will put yourselves on sale as slaves and servants - but there will be no buyers.” (28:68)

In this list of escalating calamities which would befall Am Yisroel for transgressing the Torah, this last calamity (returning to Egypt, and not being bought as slaves) seems relatively mild. Rashi (perhaps in response to this observation) comments on the reason why there would be no buyers, “Because they have decreed upon you (Am Yisroel) death and destruction.” But if there was a decree of death and destruction, why does the verse downplay it - mentioning only that there would be no buyers for Jewish slaves?

As explained in previous comments, the Jews, because they contain a high spiritual component, are incompatible with this material world. As such, were it not for the Torah whose mitzvos are grounded in physical matter (e.g. animal hides for Torah scrolls, mezuzos, t’fillin; four species; etc.) they would not be able to exist as a sovereign, independent nation as do other nations in this world. Therefore, when they cast aside the Torah, they have no basis for being in this material world. And, if non-the-less it is decreed that they exist despite transgressions, it can only be as an adjunct, a nonessential part of another nation: slaves - as we were, in Egypt, before we received the Torah. (Sfas Emes, Pesach 5663)

Now we can understand why this verse is the ultimate calamity. Starvation, pogroms, sickness, etc. - all the calamities of the previous verses, do not necessarily mean annihilation. But if Am Yisroel (having lost the right to exist as a sovereign, independent nation because it desecrated the Torah) can not attach itself to another nation as slaves (because there are no buyers), then their end is indeed imminent.

Perhaps this is Rashi's meaning, also. There are no buyers “because (not the Egyptians, but Heaven) has decreed on you (Am Yisroel) death and destruction.” The Heavenly decree for Am Yisroel's extinction will be brought about with their not being bought as slaves. (S.L.G.)

"Gleaned From the Sfas Emes"- excerpts adapted from a soon to published book, G-d Willing, by Simcha Leib Grossbard.Rabbi Grossbard is author of "The Sfas Emes Haggadah"(Targum Press) and "Kasheleg Yalbinu", a two volume (Hebrew) work based on Sfas Emes.

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