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Ki Tavo 5766

By: Shprintzee Rappaport

The Haftorah for Parshat Ki Tavo comes from Yeshaya (60:1-22). As part of

Hashem's ongoing attempt to comfort His people directly, He says (60:1):

"Get up My light because your light has come and the glory of Hashem will

shine upon you."

The Haftorah goes on to promise us that all the nations of the world will

see this light and as a result (60:4): "They will all gather together and

come to you."

At first, when the Jews see this gathering of nations they will be scared

but then they will realize that this is happening so that (60:10, 12): "The

sons of strangers will build your city walls and their kings will serve you.

The nation who does not subjugate himself to you, will perish."

Hashem then promises the Jews that violence will no longer be heard in the

Land of Israel. Instead, there will be such security that they will live

with their gates and doors constantly open without fear of attack. Towards

the end of the Haftorah, Hashem makes the following promise to the Jews

(60:19): "You will have no more need for the light of the sun in the day

and the moon at night, because Hashem's light will shine on you."

As to what is meant by the "light" coming upon the Jews, the Yalkut Chadash

(Oral Tradition) says that it is referring to the Torah which is often

referred to as "light". For example, in Sefer Mishlei (Proverbs, 6:23)

Shlomo HaMelech (King Solomon) writes: "The Mitzvah is the candle, the

Torah is the light."

Based on this, the Yalkut says that the promise in the Haftorah is that

Torah will go back to its original light. As to what that means, the Rabbis

say that as a result of the various periods of exile that the Jews have

experienced, much of the Oral Tradition was forgotten. But Hashem's

comforting promise is that even the Oral Tradition which was forgotten, will

eventually return to us.

The Midrash continues to say that if a person learns moral conduct and the

five books of the Torah, Hashem will send an angel to watch over him. But

if in addition to that, a person also learns Prophets and Writings, Hashem

sends two angels to watch over him. Finally, it says that if a person

learns all of "Tanach" (i.e. Torah, Prophets and Writings) as well as the

Oral Tradition, Hashem will personally watch over that person. So Hashem is

comforting us by letting us know that eventually the Oral Tradition will be

restored to us and as a result of learning it, Hashem will personally watch

over us.

A connection to Parshat Ki Tavo is pretty straightforward as in it, Moshe

tells the Jews (28:58-59): "If you do not keep all the words in this Torah,

to fear this honorable and awesome Name, Hashem your G-d. Then Hashem will

wondrously bring plagues on you and on your children, great plagues and

horrible sicknesses."

The Gemarra (Tractate Shabbat) explains the phrase "Hashem will wondrously

bring plagues on you" as Moshe telling the Jews that the Oral Tradition will

eventually be forgotten. In addition, the "plagues" refer to the fact that

Torah scholars will be taken away from the Jewish people. As to why Hashem

would make Torah be forgotten, Kli Yakar (based on a quote from Yeshaya)

says that it is because the Jews were studying Torah for ulterior motives,

instead of studying it to learn what Hashem wanted of them. When a person

learns Torah for ulterior motives (i.e. so that people will give him honor)

the result can be harmful for him and others.

According to Kli Yakar, this is why the pasuk uses both terms of "honorable

and awesome" to describe the Name of Hashem. The term "honorable" implies

that we must do Hashem's will and learn His Torah for His honor, not ours.

The second term "awesome" implies that sometimes we do what Hashem wants of

us simply because we are concerned with how others will view us if we do not

keep His word. But the verse is reminding us that we should be in awe of no

one other than Hashem and thus we must keep His word.

There is a famous incident in Jewish history that we read about on Tisha

B'Av, referred to as the "Ten Martyrs". According to the Midrash Rabbah

(Oral Tradition) on Eichah, the Roman Emperor Hadrian took ten of the

greatest Torah scholars of the time (including R. Akivah and R. Gamliel the

High Priest, R. Chanina Ben Tradyon, etc.) and had them killed in extremely

brutal ways. One of those Martyrs was a man by the name of R. Yeshovav

HaSofer. As he was being killed, his students were standing around him and

they cried out to him "Rebbe, what do you see?" He replied, "I see that in

the future, the Oral Torah will be forgotten from among the Jewish people."

The students' response was "What can we do in order to correct that?" R.

Yeshovav answered "You have to love each other and act justly with your

fellow human being."

Loving and acting justly toward another often requires giving up one's own

interests for the other person. This demonstrates selflessness. The

Haftorah and Parshat Ki Tavo both seem to be telling us that Torah can only

be learned by people who are learning it for selfless reasons--i.e. for

Hashem's sake. The way to practice being selfless is to love and act justly

toward our fellow human beings. Only then will Hashem restore the Oral

Tradition to us and thus watch over us Himself. Knowing that Hashem watches

over us, as opposed to an intermediary watching over us, is quite a comfort.

Shabbat Shalom.

Shprintzee

 

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