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Ki Tavo 5772

By: Rav Avigdor Meyerowitz

Hayom! Rav Avigdor Meyerowitz One of the words most recurring in this week's parsha is the word "hayom" Today. Already in the third pasuk, when one brings their Bikurim to the Kohen, the Torah instructs them to say "I declare this day , that I have come to the land etc."[1] The word appears again another 12 times until its last mention in the concluding paragraph of the parsha: " Yet until this day, the Lord has not given you a heart to know, eyes to see and ears to hear."[2] Most of the verses that have the word "hayom" in the parsha refer to the giving of the mitzvoth "this day" to Bnei Yisrael, and the demand of Moshe Rabbeinu from them "this day" to keep them. For example: "This day, the L-rd, your G-d, is commanding you to fulfill these statutes and ordinances, and you will observe and fulfill them with all your heart and with all your soul. You have selected the L-rd this day, to be your G-d, and to walk in His ways, and to observe His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances, and to obey Him. And the L-rd has selected you this day to be His treasured people, as He spoke to you, and so that you shall observe all His commandments."[3] "And Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying, Observe all of the commandment that I command you this day."[4] "Moses and the Levitic priests spoke to all Israel, saying, "Pay attention and listen, O Israel! This day, you have become a people to the L-rd, your G-d. You shall therefore obey the L-rd, your G-d, and fulfill His commandments and His statutes, which I command you this day."[5] The word "hayom" in the above mentioned context bothered the commentators. Since the Torah had been given to them already at Har Sinai some forty years ago, why does Moshe Rabbeinu continuously emphasize "hayom" today? Various explanations have been given. The Ramban says that in this parsha Moshe concluded his second giving over of the Torah to Bnei Yisrael which commenced at the beginning of Sefer Devarim. In essence, the Ramban claims that this day was for Bnei Yisrael "keyom Sinai" like the day of Sinai, where Bnei Yisrael first received the Torah.[6] Similarly, the Ohr Hachayim notes that many of the mitzvoth mentioned by Moshe in this sefer, specifically those mentioned at the beginning of the parsha, Bikurim and Viduy Ma'asrot, will soon become practical. Though they were commanded forty years ago at Sinai, they remained theoretical and subjects of learning only. Now on the eve of their entry into Eretz Yisrael they would become a reality to be fulfilled, thus the emphasis on "today", as today (meaning in the near future) it will become practical.[7] Based on the same idea it would not be unreasonable to suggest that the simple meaning of the emphasis on "today" is because, as the Ramban notes in numerous places, the "ikar" of the mitzvoth is intended for keeping in Eretz Yisrael whereas outside of Eretz Yisrael they are to be practiced in order not to forget them[8]. Hence the element of "today" as in reality - the real thing is only now about to commence. It is interesting to note however that Rashi did not adopt any of the previous approaches in dealing with the repetitive theme of "today". Rashi, quoting Chazal, explains that the use of the word "hayom" is to stress the obligation on us to view the Torah afresh as if it was given today: "This day, the Lord your God is commanding you: Every day, you shall regard the commandments as if they are brand new, as though you are just today being commanded regarding them."[9] "This day, you have become a people [to the Lord, your God]: Every single day, it should seem to you as though you are today entering into a covenant with Him."[10] The question is, why did Rashi not explain the verses simply as referring to those days that Moshe was addressing Am Yisrael on, similar to the explanations given above. The Re'em, Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrachi, one of the foremost commentators on Rashi indeed finds difficulty in understanding what forced Rashi to explain the word "hayom" figuratively, and concludes that it is because of a grammatical nuance in the pasuk.[11] The Maharal however, in his commentary on Rashi[12], has the most profound suggestion to Rashi's approach. Says the Maharal - if the words "hayom hazeh" are referring to the historical day on which Moshe was speaking (as explained by the other commentators), - "maiy nafka minah" what difference does it make? Why would the Torah bother to tell me that? It has no meaning to me, here and now! Since the Torah is from the word "hora'ah" to instruct[13], the word "hayom today cannot just be there for historical informative reasons, it must be saying something to me - today! What is the meaning of what Rashi says? Every day, you shall regard the commandments as if they are brand new, as though you are just today being commanded regarding them.[14] "This day, you have become a people [to the Lord, your God]: Every single day, it should seem to you as though you are today entering into a covenant with Him."[15] The obvious idea that comes to mind is the theme of freshness, vitality and excitement that we should maintain in our approach to Torah and Mitzvot. Despite the fact that the Torah was given to us so long ago - we read the same parshat shavua year in year out and we practice the same Mitzvot over and over again - it is incumbent upon us to maintain a fresh and vibrant approach to Torah and mitzvoth. This idea was and still is expounded upon by many of the Rishonim[16], Achronim, Ba'alei Hamussar and Chassidic Rabbis. I would like to suggest an additional approach to this idea based on the last "hayom" in our parsha. After the blessings and curses in chapter 28, Moshe Rabbeinu says the following verses to Bnei Yisrael: "And Moses called all of Israel and said to them, "You have seen all that the L-rd did before your very eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh, to all his servants, and to all his land; The great trials which your very eyes beheld and those great signs and wonders. Yet until this day, the L-rd has not given you a heart to know, eyes to see and ears to hear. I led you through the desert for forty years [during which time] your garments did not wear out from upon you, nor did your shoes wear out from upon your feet. You neither ate bread, nor drank new wine or old wine, in order that you would know that I am the L-rd, your G-d. And then you arrived at this place. And Sihon, the king of Heshbon, and Og, the king of Bashan, came out towards us in battle, and we smote them. And we took their land, and we gave it as an inheritance to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and to the half tribe of Manasseh. "[17] While reminding the people of all that Hashem has done for them, Moshe Rabbeinu says to the people that until this day Hashem had not given them the ability to appreciate and understand what Hashem had done for them. The commentators are perplexed as to the meaning of such a statement. How could it be that Hashem did not let them see? Did Hashem remove their free choice? Did they not see themselves all those things? Were they not "Dor Ha'deah" - the generation of knowledge - that received the Torah directly from Hashem on Har Sinai? Once again the commentators have offered various different explanations, ranging from the Abarbanel who suggests reading the verse as a rhetorical question through to others who simply say that indeed Bnei Yisrael did not fully appreciate the miracles being done for them.[18] Possibly though, what Moshe Rabbeinu is saying to Bnei Yisrael is that the heart, eyes and ears that they have used in the past will not be sufficient for what they have to perceive tomorrow. Moshe is demanding from the people an attitude of looking at things not in the same way they have seen them yesterday, but rather each day requires a renewed, refined look at life. The true meaning of "Every day, you shall regard the commandments as if they are brand new" does not mean putting on a show as if you are excited with the Torah though it's not really new. Indeed the translation of Rashi above reads "as if they are brand new". However in the original Hebrew Rashi does not use the letter "kaf" as if, rather they must be in your eyes "new"! It is a sincere demand to genuinely look at the Torah and Mitzvot through eyes that you did not have yesterday and the day before. Through learning, tefilah, practicing mitzvoth and teshuvah one develops their entire being on a daily basis. This ongoing progression must express itself as well in our approach to appreciating and internalizing the mitzvoth. We say during the month of Elul twice a day in davening the twenty seventh chapter of Tehilim: LeDavid Hashem. In it we say the famous verses "achat sha'alti me'et Hashem etc". "One [thing] I ask of the Lord, that I seek-that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to see the pleasantness of the Lord and to visit HisTemple every morning."[19] It appears however that we are asking for two contradicting things. Do we want to dwell (shivti) in the house of Hashem, permanently, or do we want tovisit (levaker) there on the odd occasion? Rashi gives two possible explanations for the word "levaker". Either it comes from the word "boker" morning - to appear there every morning, or it comes from the word "levaker" to inquire, examine or criticize. I heard from Rav Shlomo Fisher Shlita that the two explanations of Rashi are complimentary. If one approaches Hashem each morning with an inquiring searching mind and not in the same way one did yesterday, one will merit to truly "dwell in the house of the Hashem".

 

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