Parshat Ki Tavo 5778: Expressing Gratitude to, and Emulation of Hashem; and the Canards of the Nations

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua Ki Tavo is being sponsored by David and Malka Blass and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated for Refuah Shlaima for the Cholim of the community. To the Blass family, many thanks for your sponsorship and 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 a 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.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Ki Tavo 5778: Expressing Gratitude to, and Emulation of Hashem; and the Canards of the Nations

by Moshe Burt

Torah outlines, at the beginning of our Parshat, the ceremony in which farmers were to take their first fruits, the Bikkorim, to the Beit HaMikdash and present them to the Kohen in a ritual which included expression of gratitude to Hashem for all that He had done for them.

The Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash (pages 1068-1069) explains:

The Jew’s gift of the first fruits… to the Kohen symbolizes that he dedicates everything he has to the service of Hashem. For a Jew to say that his every accomplishment… is a gift from Hashem, is one of the goals of Creation.

Part of this expression of gratitude to Hashem by the farmers states:

“The Egyptians mistreated us and placed hard work upon us.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 26, posuk 6 as rendered to English by both The Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash and The Sapirstein Edition: The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary)

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his sefer “Growth Through Torah” (pages 444-445) cites Rabbi Mordechai Gifter, from his sefer. “Pirkei Torah” (Vol. 1, page 30):

The verse 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 thinking that the Israelites were evil and not worthy of standard human rights could they make their decrees against them, and the rest of the people accepted this otherwise unacceptable behavior. In recent history, this was the strategy of the Nazis and their propaganda vilifying us as a prelude to their actual oppression of our people.

R’ Pliskin, in his sefer “Growth Through Torah” (Ibid) goes on to explain:

This too [dehumanizing and then afflicting] is the strategy of people who want to rationalize their mistreatment of others or their lack of helping others. They try to justify their cruelty or apathy by claiming that the other person has done much or serious wrong. Before accepting these negative reports, it is incumbent upon those hearing them to clarify if they are really true. Ask [one’s self], “What might be motivating this person to relate this negative material?…. Even if the negative information is true, one must ascertain if the behavior [which is being justified] it supposedly comes to condone is proper according to Torah principles.

Such anti-Semitic canards have been used against Jews through history. We see these slanders by the nations, even today, taking shape by way of the countless cases where the world’s print and electronic media, including the internet, decry as disparate Israeli military responses where the terrorists are terminated or neutralized in a bogus comparison to terror attacks which cause property damage, claim injuries, or fatalities of Jews, or Hamas or Hezbollah rocket or fiery kite attacks such as those that destroy land and trees, or where Hamas murderers try to overrun the Gaza border into southern Israel, or where Israel takes military steps to secure her northern border against Iran’s forces in Syria. The nations turn a deaf-ear and blind eye to Hamas or PA terrorist attacks; i.e. the killing last summer of Islamic terrorists who smuggled weapons onto Har HaBayit and murdered Israeli policemen, or the terrorist who stabbed and killed three members of a family in Halamish in their home as they ate the Shabbos night meal and was later neutralized by an off-duty Chayal, among countless other such instances.

The nations then brought worldwide pressure upon Israel, which unfortunately the current government of Israel capitulated to, in order to force removal of security devices (from Har HaBayit) designed to prevent re-occurrences of terror attacks.

We have noted recent indications that no less than an entire American political party is now slandering Israel, accusing us of everything from disproportional responses to Hamas’ actions in Gaza, including border attacks of types listed above, terrorist murder infiltration attempts, and more, to President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal Capital, to attacking Israel for not committing “two-state” suicide.

Rabbi Moshe Weissman, in his sefer “The Midrash Says” on our Parshat Ki Tavo (“The Midrash Says” on Sefer Devarim, pages 294-296) indicates that Hashem’s command which Moshe and the elders transmitted to the people required two sets of twelve huge stones each where Torah was transcribed into seventy languages in order that the nations read, learn and understand Torah, both at the border — in the land of Moav on the Eastern side of the Jordan River, and another set at Har Eval where Am Yisrael would bring korbonot (offerings to Hashem). Later, these latter stones — the altar with Torah inscribed would be broken down in order to be brought to Gilgal, the first station in Eretz Yisrael where they would stand permanently.

“The Midrash Says” also indicates that these latter twelve stones were to be taken, upon crossing the Jordan, “from the place where the water receded for B’nai Yisrael to cross.”

“The Midrash Says” (ibid) records:

The stones signified that one was about to enter the land of the Torah. Just as a Jewish home is distinguished by the Mezuzah at the doorpost, so a huge monument at the border of Eretz Yisrael reminded the traveler that the purpose of living there is to keep the Torah.

As much as the nations continue to slander and commit their abominations and will be ultimately judged, B’nei Yisrael and our political “leaders” and “elders” continue to act in multitudinous ways in contradiction to the ways of Torah, as has been discussed by this author in numerous previous vorts.

This author has a friend who once recounted stories about a certain Arab UN diplomat who would disdainly address his Israeli counterpart: “Are we talking about a Jewish state which keeps the Shabbat, that keeps Kosher…???”

These contradictions bring about a perception among the nations of Am Yisrael as a nation of hypocrites, reinforcing the slanders and false characterizations of us in the view of the nations. Jewish lives and survival have never mattered to the nations, who have persecuted us throughout these millennia. But when the actions of our own political “leaders”, even among some of the religious politicos, and so-called elites feed that disdain with which the nations hold of us, this not only runs counter to Hashem’s purpose in placing the stones at the border with Torah inscribed upon them; the boosha, the disgrace of such actions diminishes our right to Eretz Yisrael where Hashem has placed us.

All of this having been written, we return to two poskim, one from Parshat Eikev and one from our Parshat Ki Tavo.

Sefer Devarim, Parshat Eikev, Perek 11, posuk 22 with commentary from the Artscroll Stone Chumash, page 997:

“For if you will observe this total commandment that I command you, to perform it, to love Hashem Kelokim, to walk in all His ways and to cleave to Him”

Moshe… tells his people that they must… walk in Hashem’s ways by imitating His acts of kindness and concern for the needy, and by cleaving to Him…. Ramban interprets “cleaving” as the duty to avoid the temptation of idolatry by always remembering Hashem and inspiring oneself to love Him.

Sefer Devarim, Parshat Ki Tavo, Perek 27, posuk 1 with commentary from the Artscroll Stone Chumash, page 1073:

“Moshe and the elders of Israel commanded the people saying, ‘Observe the entire commandment that I command you this day.'”

Moshe now commanded the people that upon entering the Land, … they were to commit themselves anew to Hashem and the Torah. They would do this by inscribing the entire Torah on twelve huge stones, by bringing offerings at two mountains to affirm their allegiance…. Moshe… summoned the elders of Israel to join him in this proclamation.

So, it seems that in the citing from Parshat Eikev, Moshe calls on Am Yisrael to love Hashem and emulate His ways, whereas, in the citing from our Parshat Ki Tavo, Moshe calls on Am Yisrael to reaffirm their love and emulation, with the Torah, written on those twelve huge stones, bearing witness for all time as to Am Yisrael’s adherence to her pledge, or lack thereof.

As Rosh Hashana approaches, we must undertake a groundswell to bring about a Jewish nation in consonance with Hashem’s spirit in having these Torah-inscribed stones placed at our border and at Gilgal.

May we, the B’nei 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 and that the twice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of four years ago. 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 prevent Chas V’Challila the handing 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 Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.