This week, our Parshat HaShevua for Ki Tavo being sponsored by Binyamin and Tracy Skriloff of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated to Tracy’s parents Seymour and Leslie Ratner. To the Skriloff 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 (or as the case may be, co-sponsoring) a Parshat HaShevua.
Please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
In Parshat Eikev, posukim appear near the end of that Parsha expressing their centrality in Judaism:
“For if you will observe this entire commandment [kol HaMitzvah Hazoat] that I command you, to perform it, to love Hashem, your G’d, to walk in all His ways and to cleave to Him, Hashem will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will drive out greater and mightier nations than yourselves.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 11, posukim 22-23 as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash, page 997)
Shem Mishmuel’s commentary on this special loshen used by Hashem and spoken by Moshe Rabbeinu: “kol HaMitzvah Hazoat” brought out, through citing the claims of Rabbi Levi and the Rabbanim, respectively, that it represented either the recital of Shema or of Shabbos observance, points out the centrality of both in Judaism.
In our Parshat Ki Tavo, a similar loshen is used, but omitting “this” [Hazoat]:
“Moshe and the elders of Israel commanded the people saying, ‘Observe the entire Mitzvah [Kol HaMitzvah] that I command you this day. It shall be on the day that you cross the Jordan to the Land that Hashem, your G’d gives you, you shall set up great stones and you shall coat them with plaster [some renderings refer to “lime” as the coating]. You shall inscribe on them all the words of this Torah, when you cross over, so that you may enter the Land that Hashem, your G’d gives you…. It shall be that when you cross the Jordan, you shall erect these stones, of which I commanded you today, on Har [Mount] Eval, and you shall coat them with plaster. There you shall build an altar for Hashem…, and you shall not raise iron upon them. Of whole stones shall you build the altar of Hashem…, and you shall bring upon it elevation offerings to Hashem…” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 27, posukim 1-6 as rendered in the Artscroll Stone Chumash, page 1073)
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’nei Yisrael to cross.”
Apparently, the plaster, or lime was applied to the stones was done in order to make the stones more pliable for inscribing Torah, although “The Midrash Says” indicates that the plaster, or lime was applied so that the writing would not be erased by the rains.
“The Midrash Says” (ibid) records:
In fact, the [nations] did send their scribes to copy the Torah from these stones, but never afterwards improved their deeds. Hashem will hold them responsible in the future, on the Great Day of Judgement.
Like the stones that Moshe set up on the Eastern side of the Jordan, these would also warn the [nations] to accept the Noachide Laws upon themselves, and would inform them that Hashem’s anger was kindled as a result of their idol worship and abominations.
These stones served as a permanent memorial to remind future generations that their ancestors crossed the Jordan on dry land.
Yehoshua erected another set of twelve stones in the Jordan itself to commemorate the miracle [of the water receding allowing B’nei Yisrael to cross].
Furthermore, the stones signified that one was about to enter the land of the Torah. Just as a Jewish home is distinguished by the Mezuza 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.
Sefer Shem Mishmuel (by R’ Shmuel Bornstein, as translated by R’ Zvi Belovski, page 414) notes:
When Klal Yisrael were about to enter Eretz Yisrael, they were making a new start in a new land. They needed a tangible reminder of the correct way in which to begin their service of Hashem. Thus Hashem required them to erect stones and to write the text of the Torah upon them. This indicates that the first element of Divine service comes from the innermost, unchanging part of the personality. They were to try to arouse the Holy attachment to Torah which lay deep within them [“pintele yid”] and allow it to pervade and purify the rest of their personalities.
R’ Shimson Rafael Hirsch z”l provides additional commentary on Sefer Devarim, Perek 27, posukim 1-6 in the new Hirsch Chumash (published by Feldheim in 2005 and translated to English by Rabbi Daniel Haberman, pages 643-644):
Ensuring forever that they [Mitzvot] are known and carried out, the task devolves not only the leaders and elders, but on the whole people…. Moshe… places the people under the obligation of keeping the Mitzvot.
These Mitzvot… are called here Mitzvah, one commandment, for all of the Mitzvot together form the task devolving on Israel, and to carry out this task Israel was assigned its historical “post.”
However, as much as the nations continue to commit their abominations and will be ultimately judged, B’nei Yisrael and our political “leaders” and governmental “elders” continue to act in multitudinous, nefarious, and often duplicitous ways in contradiction to the ways of Torah, the will of their constituency and the security and sovereignty of Am Yisrael as has been discussed by this author in numerous previous vorts over the years.
This author knew an elderly man who once resided in Ramat Beit Shemesh who 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 Am Yisrael into a perception of hypocrisy 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 they disdainfully hold of us, through the doing of own political “leaders” and elites, as hypocrites, 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 diminishes our right to Eretz Yisrael where Hashem has placed us.
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 thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha are finally home in Eretz Yisrael. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of seven 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. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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!!!
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.