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Parashat Ki Tavo


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 relationship between the "tochahah," the collection of unspeakable curses that will befall Benei Yisrael, Heaven forbid, upon their neglect of the Torah, found in our perasha, to the time of period when it is read - the end of the year.

By reading this perasha specifically during this period, we express our hope 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 to 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 expression 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 choicest 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 fruits 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 this procedure indicates that his appreciation is shallow, not deep-rooted, and insincere. 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 and 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 him to devote his time and energy to diligent Torah study, and he studied under 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 Torah 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 on 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 the 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 not 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 his spouse, with whom he builds his family nest. And, as we noted, feelings and 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 we 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 allocate, 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 support those in need and Torah institutions.

If we take advantage of these next two weeks to entrench within us a genuine sense of gratitude and commit ourselves to express it properly, then this constitutes the best means of preparation for Rosh Hashanah. Y


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 them 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 the 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 all 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 the 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 on 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 never 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 received from the Creator allows it to retain its volume during every motion. It is 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 as needed. As if this is not enough, they can also revolve around their hinge in both directions. The arm of the octopus is a most wondrous example of a blend between free motion and efficient and precise control of movement.

For this reason, researches hope to learn from this system how to deal with 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 and 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, an 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 which 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 considered 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
(part ten)

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 was 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 trace 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 out 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?' To which he answered, 'She will ask the rabbi.'"

"Thus," concluded Rabbi Shemuel, "we have two witnesses to the order of the Saraf. Rabbi Shelomoh Zalman Parush heard it from him, and now you yourself 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 make 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 write 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 funds 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 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 extent of our obligation to sense and express gratitude from the words of the Hid"a 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 angry, 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 punished. 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 his 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 and gives reward."

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, "Blessing 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 passage, as well. The Hid"a was the pillar of Torah, familiar and proficient in all 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 allusion to the Ramban's comments whatsoever!In truth, this is part of the lesson of expressing gratitude, and one question is answered by the other. The Hid"a printed this idea in the name of the host, rather than the Ramban, in order 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 explicit Ramban!

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 the source of the appointment, the Al-mighty Himself. Furthermore, since the kohen fills the place of none other than Aharon HaKohen, we must respect him as if he actually is Aharon. The pasuk therefore says, "el Hakohen," to THE 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 a 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 son was greatly distressed, and his relatives came to comfort him, dressed in festive garb and bearing vibrant and exuberant countenances. He asked them, "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 kohen, 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 you received one-tenth like the kohen!" The son understood the implication, and 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 yield tenfold.

This, then, is the meaning of our pasuk: "And you shall take from the first of all the fruits of the ground." If you take off the necessary tithes from 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 amount.

"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 son refers to the Al-mighty as "Hashem our G-d," whereas the wicked son detaches 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, not to him. The question then arises, why did the Torah mandate that the farmer bringing bikkurim to the kohen should say, "I have come here today to Hashem 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 and night for his livelihood. However, bringing the bikkurim to the Bet Hamikdash raises the farmer to the exalted level of the kohen and allows him the same profound insight.. Therefore, he may rightfully say, "I have come here today to Hashem your G-d"!

Halacha Berurah

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, the 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 Torah 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, as 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 thus ssissit may be made from even camel-wool or wool of any other non-kosher animal.

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 these 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 as 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 are 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 such a garment, nevertheless one may, if he wishes, place on the garment ssissit 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 partially 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 use 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 and 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 garment.

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 a garment is in question. This is because there is a doubt whether or not all the ssissit have to be of the same material, meaning, either entirely of the 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.


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 of 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 too excited about the idea, but, after she persisted, he agreed. A lot of fish happened to have been brought to the market that day, so the price decreased 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 buy a giant fish, only of much lower quality and with a bitter taste.

Understandably, the man refused. The merchant then offered to sell him the 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 with 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 small 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, he found inside a giant, sparkling pearl. He rinsed the pearl and hurried over 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 to 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 what 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 know all too well that they often elude our pursuit. We experience heartbreaking disappointment and suffer serious financial loss.

Perhaps the best piece of advice is to invest this same time and energy into 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.

Can there be any greater fortune than that?

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