Parshat Hashavua KI TAVO.
Contributed by. Rav Nissim Mordechai Makor
Ki Tavo is the 50th weekly Torah portion (פָּרָשָׁה, parashah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the seventh in the Book of Deuteronomy. In a nutshell Parshat Hashavua Ki Tavo tells of the ceremony of the first fruits (בִּכּוּרִים, bikkurim), tithes, and the blessings from observance and curses from violation of the law.
For you Hashem
Bikkurim is a mitzva (commandment) that is applicable when the Jewish people are settled in Eretz Yisroel (the Land of Israel). This mitzva entails bringing the first fruits of one's field to the Kohen (priest) in the Mikdash (sanctuary).
It is remarkable that the Torah commands the farmer to give away to the Kohen his very first fruits - fruits which give him special joy and pride. After all, it makes no difference to the Kohen if he receives the farmer's first fruits or his second fruits. Why then does the Torah command the grower to take fruit that is dear to him and give it to a recipient who would just as soon receive any other fruit?
It is appropriate that as one enjoys the bounty of his harvest, he should bear in mind that all the blessings that he enjoys come from Hashem. By bringing Bikkurim, one demonstrates and internalizes this by celebrating his new harvest with the real owner of his fields - Hashem. So to speak, by bringing Bikkurim to the Mikdash one "shares" the joy of the first fruits with Hashem.
We can now understand why Bikkurim had to be brought from the first fruits. While the Kohanim had the privilege of partaking of these fruits, the focus of Bikkurim was to heighten the people's awareness of Hashem's role in their lives. The benefit was for the giver not the recipient.
"Hayom Hazeh Nihyayso L'om LaHashem Elokecha" "This day you became a nation for Hashem, your G-d"
This verse refers to the time that the Jews were in the desert, before they actually entered Eretz Yisroel (the land of Israel). What was it that made the Jews into a nation if they did not yet have a common homeland? Now, this verse follows the account of a covenant that the Jews made with Hashem. It bound them to keep the laws of the Torah. Thus, the Torah way of life is the bond that unites all Jews. Torah is the reason that the Jews were able to preserve a strong national identity throughout the millennia in exile - despite their lack of a homeland.
(R' S. R. Hirsch)
“Cursed is one who will not uphold the words of this Torah, to perform them.” (Debarim 27:26)
This pasuk is the last of a series of curses that were said on Har Gerizim and Har Eival when Bnei Yisrael entered the land. The Rabbis ask: What does it mean to uphold the Torah? They explain that this is referring to one who has the ability to uphold and strengthen the observance of the Torah and mitzvot by those who are neglecting it. Since we are all guarantors one for another, even someone who is fulfilling the entire Torah but fails to encourage others to keep the mitzvot is included in this statement. The Gemara, however, teaches that each of the twelve curses listed in the parashah was preceded by a parallel blessing. So before this curse was stated, they said “Blessed is one who upholds the words of the Torah.” This means that anyone who succeeds in encouraging others to follow the Torah will be blessed.
This is something that does not just apply to the Rabbis and teachers. Hashem has given abilities to each and every one of us to raise the level of observance and Torah learning in others. If someone was blessed with wealth, he has the opportunity to support Torah institutions. One who was blessed with wisdom can teach others. Someone who has management skills can set up organizations to help others in many different ways. And every one of us can serve as a role model for others, especially for our children. By living our lives according to the standards of the Torah, others will see the beauty of the misvot and be inspired to grow as well. May we succeed in upholding the standards of the Torah, in ourselves and in others, and thereby enjoy the blessing that was declared by the entire nation when they entered the land of Israel.
Pearls of Life
HaRav Yitzchok Scheiner enlightens the Pearls of Life telling us that in the future Hakadosh Baruch Hu will judge all of us: What did we make of ourselves? And even discounting the supernatural abilities hidden within us, how many of us ever fulfill our natural potential! Every person has hidden strengths, potential he hasn’t tapped into. We all have the ability to become much greater than we are now. We all have excuses. One person will say he didn’t have good health. Another will say he had parnassah worries. There is an unlimited amount of excuses one can give for not reaching his potential. But all of the nation of Israel’s great Rabbi’s had these same issues, and they became great despite their challenges and they learned despite their hardships. Woe to us from the Day of Judgment; Woe to us from the Day of Rebuke. A man once approached the Steipler. “I have problems at home and it is very difficult for me to learn. What is going to be with me?” The Steipler told him, “You can’t pay attention to the distractions. If I would have focused on my problems, I would never have made anything of myself. I didn’t pay attention to any outside issues when I was learning. I blocked it all out, as much as I humbly could.” That is what we all must do. We all to work on improving ourselves slowly, one percent at a time. No more excuses. Work on yourself to reach your full potential, so when the Day of Judgment comes, you won’t need excuses, and you will be proud of what you accomplished.
Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim
As head from my Torah Masters