At the end of last weeks parsha we had the mitzvah to remember Amalek. This week we begin with the command of Bikurim the first fruits. What is the connection? In an agricultural society, working the land causes man to rely more on Hashem. He sees how his livelihood is dependent on Hashem. Amalek were opposed to man's connection with anything spiritual. They preached man's independence from G-D. The Torah is highlighting here the greatness of Yisrael who are called Reishis.
(26:1) “ Vhayo Ki Savo-It wil be when you come.” The word “ Vhayo” is always a term of joy. The Ohr Hachayim writes that real joy is only when you acquire Eretz Yisroel.
(26:5) “Arami Oved Avi- An Armenian destroyed our forefather.” What does it mean “destroyed” our forefathers did survive? Hashem equates the intent of a gentile as if it was done. Also because Lavan switched the daughters he gave to Yakov, thus Yosef was not the first child born to Yakov which caused the jealousy and subsequent sale of Yosef and descent of Yakov to Mitzrayim.
(26:11) “V’Hagair Asher Bekirbecha-And the stranger in your midst.” We find this statement many times through out the Torah. Usually the Torah is listing a Mitzvah and then goes on to state that this particular Mitzvah also applies to the convert who is in your midst. The question is if this person has converted why shouldn't he be included in the Mitzvah? The Ohr Hachaim states that when a person has an opportunity to perform one of the Mitzvos which are not usually capable of being performed, Hashem enables the Neshamas of those who have already departed from this world without having had the opportunity to perform this Mitzvah, to join a Neshama in the body of that Jew who is about to perform this Mitzvah. In this way these Neshamas can claim their share in the performance of that Mitzvah. This is what is meant by the words “Ve Hagair Asher Bekirbecha.” The stranger in your midst literally.
This Parsha also deals with the curses that were originally said in Vayikra. Ezra made an edict that both times these curses are read should be before the New Year. This is in order that they should be out of the way before we begin the New Year. We see in the curses a gradual increase in the severity of the curses until we reach the final curse of eating ones children. This is the worst one because it is saying that a person is no longer a person but even lower than an animal. For this reason we have the curse out of the way before the New Year since the Yom Tov of Rosh Hashana is the holiday of the creation of man. We go from being non-human to the beginning of humanity. (Chazon Eish)
(26:13) “Lo Ovarti M’Mitzvosecha V’lo Shochachty-I have not transgressed any of your commandments and I have not forgotten.” Why mention not forgetting? When bringing the first fruits one must make this declaration before Hashem. Chazal teach us that if one does not tithe his produce, mice will eat his grain. If one eats food that has been touch by a mouse it causes him to forget all of his Torah. By saying “I did not forget” the Torah wants to come full circle. I have made the proper tithes, no mice have touched my grain and I did not forget my Torah.
The Sefas Emes writes that sometimes people get so bogged down with the details of the mitzvos that they lose sight of their connection to Hashem, the one who commanded the mitzvah in the first place. The person who brings his first ripened fruit offering states that he has not forgotten Hashem Who commanded that we do this mitzvah.
(26:15) Hashkifu M’Mone Kodshecha Min H’shomayim-Look down from your Holy abode from heaven.” Why did Moshe repeat his reference to heaven by calling it both “Holy Abode” as well as “Heaven”? The Ohr H’chaim writes that the Torah wants to make us privy to a secret. Hashem has prepared two distinct sources in the celestial spheres from which to send down his benevolent influence on mankind. One source is the spiritual input He places into man, the source from which the holy souls are dispatched to inhabit our bodies. The other reservoir is that which provides us with physical goodness, sustenance enabling His creatures to stay alive by means of food and life’s basic needs. According to the Zohar the combination of these two are called Zivugim, coupling, pairing as in marriage.
According to Kabbalah the input of holy souls which used to originate from the celestial spheres has been interrupted ever since the Temple was destroyed, so that nowadays we receive input only from the source which provides the material goodness Hashem has to offer. Moshe prayed that Hashem should provide the spiritual input from the highest celestial regions called M’Mone Kodshecha. In addition to our basic needs from Shomayim.
The Sifrei explains that the blessing is that of having children. The angels cannot sing in the heavenly Mo’one until the Jews first sing to Him on earth. Therefore the angels want the Jews to multiply, so that there will always be people to sing on earth enabling the angels to fulfill the purpose of their own creation by singing to Hashem.
(27:1) “Vayitzav Moshe V’ziknei Yisroel es-Ha’am-Moshe and the elders of Yisroel commanded the nation.” Why does Moshe include the elders in this directive to the people? According to the Ramban after Moshe completed his words, he commanded the elders to address the nation with him. Since the posuk continues by saying “Shomor es Kol Hamitzvos-Guard all of the mitzvos.” And since the people follow the advice of the elders they were included. According to the Seforno this is referring to the specific mitzvah of writing the Torah on the stones. And since Moshe was not going to enter into Eretz Yisroel, the elders were included.
(27:2) “V’Hoyah Bayom Asher Tavru es-H’Yardain el H’Oretz-And it shall be on the day that you cross the Jordan to the Land.” The day that Klal Yisroel entered the land of Israel was the 10th of Nissan. They miraculously wrote the entire Torah on 12 stones in 70 languages. This miracle was to announce to the entire world that they were coming to the land not as conquerors by force but by the command of Him who created all lands. This was all done before they unsheathed a single sword.
(27:8) “V’Kosavtah al Ho’avanim es Kol Divrei HaTorah Hazos Baer Heitiv-And you shall inscribe on the stones all the words of this Torah. Very clearly.” Rashi explains these words to mean in all 70 languages. This presents a problem. In the time of the Greek King Poltemy the elders of that time were asked to translate the entire Torah into Greek. He placed them each in their own cubical to see if they were translating the Torah faithfully. Miraculously they all translated the Torah the same way including some changes they each made so that the Torah not be misconstrued. On this the Gemarrah says that for three days there was an incredible darkness over creation. The fact that Torah had been translated into a language other than the original Loshon Kodesh brought this tremendous darkness.
Why is this a problem? If the Torah had already been translated into all 70 languages in Moshe’s time, why here should there be darkness? The answer is that it wasn’t dark because they translated the Torah. It was dark because they could not translate it properly. They felt that the changes were necessary so that the Torah not be misconstrued. This is what caused this intense darkness.
According to the “Noam Elimelech” the words of the Torah should be written in a manner that allows the righteous people of each generation to interpret them in a positive way. Baer Hativ meaning explained for the good.
(27:9) “Hayom Hazeh Nihiyesah L'Am L'Hashem Elokecha-This day you have become a nation to Hashem your G-D.” Rashi writes further on in 29:3 that when Moshe heard all of Israel complain about the fact that Moshe gave the Sefer Torah he wrote to Shevet Levi alone, he was pleased saying “Today you have become a nation.” For at this point they showed their strong desire for the Torah.
(27:12) “Ayleh Yamdu L’vorech es-Ho’Am-These shall stand to bless the people.” Moshe commands six tribes to stand on Har Grezim to bless the people and six tribes to on Har Eivel to curse those who don’t follow the Torah. A question arises as to what criteria were used to choose which tribes would be on which mountain? A novel approach to resolve this is a mathematical one. If you tally the last census taken of the population of each tribe you find that the only combination that evenly divides the 12 tribes is the one set forth in the Torah. No other combination of tribes could produce an equal number on each mountain.
(27:15) Arur Ho’ish Asher Yaseh Pesel Umaseicha-Cursed is the one who makes a graven or molten image.” There were to be 12 tribes divided on the two mountains. Six would utter the blessings for those who heed the Torah and six would utter the curses for those who do not heed the Torah. The Torah however only lists the curses? Why is no mention made of the blessings for those who observe? The Shelah writes that our mission in this world is to find the blessings hidden inside the curses. In everything we encounter in life, good can be found. Although at the time it may not seem that way. Nowadays we say “Boruch Dayan Emes” when someone passes away but in the future when Moishiach will have come we will say “Boruch Hatov V’hamativ.” But if the Moshiach did come why would there be a need to say either one? Evil will have been removed from the world? Rather after the coming of Moshiach will understand and bless those things we thought were bad but now realize that it was Hashem acting in our best interest all along. Hashem commanded us to perform mitzvos. The word mitzvah ends with the same two letters of the name of Hashem, “Vav Hey” but the first two letters of the word mitzvah begin with the letter “Mem and Tzaddik” Using the ATBASH formula of Gematria where the last and first letters of the aleph beis are interchangeable, we come out with the first two letter of the name of Hashem.
Good may even be found in what would seem to be the worst places. The letters of the name Amalek stand for Amram, Moshe, Levi, Kahas. The leaders of Klal Yisroel. However the last letters of that name spell the word Misah-death. This coincides with the blessings given by Billem against Klal Yisroel. (Bamidbar 24:20) “Reshis Goyim Amalek Vachriso Adei Ovaid-Amalek is the first of the nations and their end will be eternal destruction.” They may have an illustrious beginning but their end (the last letters) spells death.
(28:2) "U'Vah Alecha Kol Habrochos H'AylehV'Hisigucha-All of these blessings will come upon you and overtake you." The word Hisigucha seems redundant? From the end of the verse we can glean an understanding. The posuk continues "Ki Sishmah L'kol Hashem Elokecha-If you listen to the voice of Hashem your G-d." The Soforno learns that the blessing is that the reward for the listening, meaning learning Torah, is that it will come even without making effort. Because of your learning Torah no effort will be needed for your physical needs.
The Netziv has a different take on this. He writes that even when a person who is listening to the voice of Hashem, meaning he is no longer that interested in the physical world. He is on a much higher level now. The blessing is that the blessing will still affect you, you will still be able to appreciate the things you no longer find as important.
(28:6) “ Boruch Atoh B'Voecha Boruch Atoh B'Tzeisecha- Blessed shall you be in your coming blessed shall you be in your going.” Rashi writes that it means you should be as free of sin when you leave this world as when you entered it. The Sifsei Kohen says if a person leaves behind a son who follows in his Torah path, it's as if he did not die. The Torah here is saying that when you leave this world you should be blessed with that type of son.
(28:23) “V’hoyoh Shemecha Asher al-Roshecha Barzel-Your heavens over your head will be copper.” Why mention the words “over your head” merely stating the heavens will be like copper would suffice? However it means to teach us that only those who do not adhere to the words of Torah will have copper heavens above them. But those who do will receive their proper rainfall.
(28:47) “Tachas Asher Lo-Ovaditah es-Hashem Elokecha B’simcha-Because you did not serve Hashem, your G-D with gladness.” The Midrash says that all of the curses came upon Klal Yisroel for not observing Shabbos. The question is how is this indicated in the posuk? The word Tachas literally means under. If we write out the aleph-Beis with each letter under the next we would have the letters of Shabbos spelled out under the letters of Asher.
(28:47) “Tachas Asher Lo-Ovaditah es-Hashem Elokecha B’simcha-Because you did not serve Hashem, your G-D with gladness.” R Shlomo Freifeld zt’l. once explained this posuk the following way. We are programmed with an instinctive need to enjoy ourselves. R. Moshe Chaim Lazzato in the introduction to The Path of the Just clearly states that Hashem created us with the sole intention to give us pleasure. We must have pleasure. Our challenge is to choose pleasures that are long lasting and sublime over superficial and empty thrills. Yet ultimately, if we do not derive joy from the holy and profound, we will be compelled to search elsewhere. If we do not fill our service of Hashem with a gshmack, we will invariably look to other venues to get that good feeling. We cannot help ourselves. We need to feel good. If we practice our Judaism by rote, we will begin to veer off the Torah’s path and our children will look to the secular culture around them to fill the void.
This fundamental concept is pointed out in the end of the curses brought at the end of the parsha. The Torah does not identify which specific mistakes will trigger the terrible tragedies delineated therein. It merely states: “Because you did not serve Hashem with joyfulness and a gladness of heart . . . (28:47).” Could it be that just because we did not have a smile on our faces while doing mitzvos, we will be judged so harshly? Various commentators’ remark that the inability to enjoy one’s observance of Torah and mitzvos is the root of one’s slacking off in his observance. It is in this lack of gshmak that causes one to stray from the Torah’s path. People are always in search of pleasure. If they are unable to find that pleasure in the ways of the Torah they will eventually seek out those pleasures that the world has to offer from places that are contrary to the will of Hashem. This straying leads us to all types of places that quite often distance us from Hashem. This is what the posuk is telling us. All of these curses will befall you because you did not find the pleasure (ie. simcha) in serving Hashem.
The mechanics are as follows: Without the joy, we instinctively wander around to find something pleasurable. . It is this ultimate estrangement that is the provocation for the curses to descend upon our nation.
(28:47) “Tachas Asher Lo-Ovaditah es-Hashem Elokecha B’simcha U’vtuv Leivav Meyrov Kol-Because you did not serve Hashem, your G-D with gladness of heart of the abundance of all things.” If you don't listen to Hashem all of these things will befall you.
Generally this is interpreted to mean because (Tachas) you didn't serve Hashem with a glad heart. It seems that this is the main reason for the curses? Why should that be so?
The word Tachas has two meanings. It could mean because or in place of. R. Miller once said that a person is sent to this world to recognize Hashem. All of his merit is based on how he relates to Hashem. If he can't relate then all of his merit is wasted. One of the things that Hashem does for us is to give us things to make us happy. So when the word Tachas is used here it means in place of. If we don't appreciate everything done for us then the curses come in place of the gladness given to us. Often we don't appreciate what we have until it's gone. This is what that posuk means. Since the good way was left unrecognized we must come on to the second way, which is the pain after the good is gone.
The Baal Hatanya writes that unhappiness indicates a total disintegration of personality. A Jew who has faith in the Divine source of his blessings cannot possibly be sad.
There are 676 words in the Tochacha and the name of Hashem (YKVK-26) appears 26 times equalling 676 (26X26). This teaches us that Hashem is with us even at the time of punishment. Hashem is our loving father. When a father punishes a child it is out of love. It is to raise the child in the proper path. The number 676 in Gematria equals “Yoridah Tzorech Aliyah He-The Descent is for the purpose of Ascent.”