This week, our Parshat HaShevua Ki Tavo is being sponsored by David and Julie Morris of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated for for a Refuah Shaleima for Chaya bat Navah, and Kol Cholei Yisrael. To the Morris family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.
You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.
Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
Ki Tavo opens by detailing the Halachot of Bikkurim — the first fruits which were brought to the Kohen as a thanksgiving as well as both remembrance of Pharaoh’s cruelty and Hashem’s deliverance of B’nai Yisrael from Mitzrayim to a land flowing with milk and honey.
The Stone Chumash on Parsha Ki Tavo (Sefer Devarim ,Perek 26, posukim 3, 5-10, page 1069) renders the posukim addressing the Halachot of Bikkurim; the presentation of Terumot to the Kohen:
You shall come to whomever will be the Kohen in those days, and you shall say to him “I declare to Hashem, Your G’d, that I have come to the land that Hashem swore to our forefathers to give us.” ….Then you shall call out and say before Hashem: “An Aramean tried to destroy my forefather. He descended to Mitzrayim and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation — great, strong and numerous. The Mitzriyim mistreated us and afflicted us, and placed hard work upon us. Then we cried out to Hashem, G’d of our forefathers, and Hashem heard our voice and saw our affliction, our travail and oppression. Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim with a strong hand and outstretched arm, with great awesomeness, and with signs and wonders. He brought us to this place, and gave us a land flowing with milk and honey. And now, behold! I have brought the first fruit of the ground that You have given me, to Hashem!”
In previous years, this author discussed the loshen of posuk 3 “Your G’d,” not “Our” or “My” and it’s significance relating to the special relationship existing between Hashem and the Kohen, as Hashem’s representative — as if he, the Kohen, were a king or a prophet. That is, as expressed in Artscroll’s, “The Family Haggadah”, page 29:
…The loshen “Your” is indicative of the special relationship between Hashem and the (that) Kohen as Hashem’s representative, even though the Kohen in any given generation may be “much inferior to his predecessors.”
The Bikkurim, therefore, are meant to be a gift which is given to the Kohen as Hashem’s representative (S’forno, as cited in The Stone Chumash, page 1069) and as:
Expressions of gratitude to Hashem for having given us the Land. (Rashi, as cited in The Stone Chumash, page 1069)
Thus is the format for presenting tithes to the Kohen and for expressing one’s great appreciation to, and love of Hashem, as well as expression of one’s love for and connection to Eretz Yisrael, by way of the Kohen, Hashem’s representative.
But there seems to be another point worthy of thought and consideration contained within what one says in addressing the Kohen upon the presentation of Terumot.
First let’s examine Sefer Devarim ,Perek 26, posukim 5-7 more closely:
He [Yaakov and his family]” descended to Mitzrayim and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation — great, strong and numerous. The Mitzriyim mistreated us and afflicted us, and placed hard work upon us.
Rav Zelig Pliskin in his sefer “Growth Through Torah” (page 444) provides what seems to be a crucially important, yet oft-overlooked lesson for Jews living outside of Eretz Yisrael in our times to internalize:
The Torah… is telling us that before the Egyptians afflicted our forefathers they first mounted a slander campaign against them and made them appear evil in the eyes of others. Only after they had everyone [all Mitzriyim] thinking that the Israelites were evil and not worthy of standard human rights could they make their decrees against them, and the rest of their people accepted this otherwise unreasonable behavior. In recent history, this was the strategy of the Nazis with their propaganda vilifying us as a prelude to their actual oppression of our people. (Rabbi Mordechai Gifter; “Pirkei Torah”, Vol. 1, page 30)
Indeed, this vilification propaganda has been in the arsenal of the nations throughout the millennia of our dispersion, and it exists for those Jews living outside of Eretz Yisrael, albeit often in more subtle forms, even today. The Nazis only refined and mass-media produced the standard vilifications used through the ages in Galut. “The Jews are not to be trusted”, “The Jews are aligned with our enemies”, “The Jews control the banks and the press”, “The Jews are shylocks”, “They use human blood to make matzot” were but some of the defamations used to indoctrinate their peoples to dehumanize us and to afflict, terrorize and expel us.
Through the generations of Golus, when travel to Eretz Yisrael was almost universally either prohibited or prohibitively costly and thus not within the realm of practical possibility, the Jews moved from place to place, got comfortable and developed an element of influence in the society in which they settled and thus became comfortable and complacent in their venue. Each time this false sense of comfort and complacency set in, it was inevitably followed by an evolution of dehumanizing propaganda of vilification, defamation; either state-sponsored, or exhibited by segments of a nation’s heretofore indigenous populace, as pretext for pogroms, killings, expulsions, etc.
Last year, we saw the dehumanizing propaganda of vilification, defamation on raw display, against the background of Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza. While these displays appear standard for such countries as France, Holland, Sweden, where Jewish leaders were receiving death threats, etc., there is not one nation where this hate and vilification has not manifested itself in full view of the world. There is not one nation where defamation appears absent, not even in the most enlightened, Pro-Israel country in the world: Canada under the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Even in Canada, we saw anti-Jewish public expressions and manifestations last summer, under the guise of protests, often violent against so-called “disproportionate” (sic) Israeli actions against Hamas in Gaza.
In the United States, where President Barak Hussein Obama, elected thanks to overwhelming Jewish support in 2008 and 2012, contests with former President Jimmy Carter for the distinction of being the most hostile president toward Jews in American history, last year a violent anti-semitic phenomenon arose in the public arena: “The Knockout Game”:
The point of this game? “For the fun of it,” said one teen on video footage of an attack which was broadcast on CBS. “They just want to see if you got enough strength to knock somebody out,” said another.
The selection process in these attacks, however, is not completely random; of the innocent victims across at least 14 states a good number have been Jewish.
…. “The worst part about it,” Mangel says, “is that while it’s happening, someone else videos it and they put it up on Youtube, like it’s something to be proud of.”
The New York police have become increasingly involved, and some believe that anti-Semitism is at the root of these attacks. The New York Post wrote, “The New York authorities describe a recent series of such attacks and, because Jews have been singled out…are considering prosecuting these assaults as hate crimes.” In fact, according to The Business Insider, some groups are referring to their versions of “The
Knockout Game” as “Beat the Jew.”
Anti-Semitism isn’t only in the Middle East. It is rearing its head everywhere from Paris to Pittsburgh. Jewish hatred is becoming more acceptable to voice out loud and it is our responsibility as Jews to acknowledge it, even if the mass media doesn’t.
Now, this year we have the Obamanator’s sham “Iran nuclear agreement” where the world lifts its sanctions against the Ayatollahs in exchange for… nothing, except to endanger Israel and ALL Jews. Obama, and his secretary of state go about threatening Israel and prime minister Netanyahu, as well as anyone from either US political party who opposes American acceptance of this so-called “agreement.” Once again, as with anything and everything else concerning Jews and Israel, the Obamanator employs the oft-used innuendo of (Jewish) dual loyalties against American Jews.
The mistaken mindset of the Jews of Mainz and Worms, responding to the Jews in Jerusalem upon the building of the Beit HaMikdash Sheini, as recounted in Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum’s “The World That Was Ashkenaz” (page 13):
“You stay where you are in the great Jerusalem and we will continue to stay in our little Jerusalem”
has its modern sequels: Lakewood Ir Hakodesh, Monsey Ir HaKodesh, Borough Park or Flatbush Ir HaKodesh. American Jews, in the generation of rampant intermarriage which has sapped our numbers, there is also rampant marginalization of Jews toward their Judaism, and thus, toward Israel. So, can Jews still be safe, secure and fully actuate themselves as Jews in the increasingly dangerous venues of Chutz L’Aretz? Have we forgotten the lessons of the Nazi-enacted Nurenberg Laws, the direct result of German Jewry’s assimilation and intermarriage?
But other questions need be asked, Are these Golus venues, including the U.S., soo comfortable, safe and secure anymore? Consider the example made of our Jewish brother Jonathan Pollard, now into his 31th year of incarceration for gathering intelligence for an American ally, Israel: intelligence America was bound by treaty to provide Israel. 30 plus years of grossly disproportionate incarceration when compared to sentences meted out for similar offenses committed by non-Jewish spies. Lest we get excited about 21 November yet, until we see Jonathan Pollard a free man with our own eyes. And what of Jews singled out for denial of opportunities to serve in critical positions in the state or defense departments if they, or their offspring have ever spent time in Israel, even learning Torah? And what of states who either pass into law, or hold referendums regarding abolition of Brit Milah or Kosher slaughter as being inhumane? What do these tell one about being a Jew in America today?
Is living in Chutz L’Aretz venues even still economic feasible? Traveling to and/or settling in Eretz Yisrael has never been, for the entire length of the golus, more accessable and achievable as it is today. And yet today’s Golus Jew is still complacent, while making more parnossa, the future of that parnossa seems increasingly shaky with the gradual declines in both the American and world economies. The Jew in America is still chasing his debts and getting less and less for every US dollar he makes.
But yet he still fears picking up and coming home — to Eretz Yisrael. If one will not even bring himself to a mindset to visualize and consider Aliyah and what it means — one’s actualization as a Jew connected to and fulfilled in his Land, then the obstacles, i.e. bureaucracy, cultural differences, employment, housing, etc. become mere excuses rather than challenges — tests to conquered and overcome. If one will not bring himself to see living in Eretz Yisrael as his true home and fulfillment of his Jewishness, will he at least be able to see his living in Eretz Yisrael as his physical survival and security as a Jew? Will Golus Jews wake up while there is still time, before a type of “iron curtain” of anti-semitic hate seals them in?
May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two Chayalim from last summer’s Gaza war. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of any piece of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!
Moshe Burt is an Oleh, writer and commentator on news and events in Eretz Yisrael. He is the founder and director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.