Parshas Ki Savo 5758

Parshas Ki Savo 5758

Mitzvas Bikkurim (First Fruits) - The Foundation of Divine Service

"And when you will come into the land that Hashem gave to you as an inheritance, and you will settle upon it, you shall take from the First Fruits of the Land that Hashem has given you, put them in a basket and bring them to the place in which Hashem has chosen His presence to dwell." (Devarim 26:1,2)

Rashi quoting the Talmud (Menachos 84b), explains the Mitzvoh. "From the First Fruits", but not from every kind of first fruits. The Mitzvoh of Bikkurim is done only with the seven special species which Eretz Yisroel is praised by; the Shivas HaMinim, wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.

"Wisdom built her house, she hewed out her seven pillars." (Proverbs 9:1)

The commentators remark that this is an allusion to the seven days of creation, the foundations of the world. Everything in the world came into being during those days.

These seven pillars also refer to the seven middos (qualities) which as well are foundations of the world (chesed [absolute kindness], gevurah [might or restraint], tiferes [beauty, harmony and balance], netzach [victory, endurance], hod [splendor, majesty], yesod [foundation], malchus [kingship, sovereignty]), as it is written, "Hashem, Yours is the greatness (ha'gedula meaning chesed), the might (ha'gevurah), the beauty (ha'tiferes), the splendor (ha'netzach) and the majesty (ha'hod)". (1 Chronicles 29:12)

The spiritual work of a Jew in this world is to raise up these middos to their source. For instance, when one is moved to inspiration for chesed, or love of a friend or object, he should transpose that emotion into love for Hashem. When one experiences fear due to a circumstance or incident, he should transpose that fear into awe of the great name of Hashem, and reflect on how He rules the world, and that there is no place void of His presence. When one is struck by the awesome beauty of some object or the raw beauty and symmetry of nature, he should reflect that this beauty is really only an expression of Hashem Himself and that the only true beauty is His.

Our Parsha of Bikkurim alludes this concept in that Bikkurim came only from the first fruits of the seven species. The seven species correspond to the seven middos, which correspond to the seven days of creation and foundation of the world. The Torah wants the Bikkurim to come from the first fruits of the seven species of "the land", (artzecha - which refers to the physical and material realm. ) Therefore, one takes all of his physical, mundane aspects from each and every middoh, brings them before Hashem, and consecrate them to His service. "Bring the first fruits of your land to Hashem your G-d." (Shemos 23:19)
(R' Yisroel of Rizhin from Ner Yisroel vol. 3, p.66)

The Avodah of Chodesh Elul

"Ani l'Dodi v'Dodi li. . .", "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine. . ."
(Song of Songs 6:3)

The first letters of these four words spell Elul. This pasuk is the most commonly quoted to represent the spirit and service of Elul; a reciprocal relationship of growing closeness and commitment between Hashem and the Jewish people.

Yet R' Shnuer Zalman of Liadi, the "Baal HaTanya" pointed out that conclusion of the verse is usually not quoted, and in those closing words is the real secret of the Month of Elul. "Ani l'Dodi v'Dodi li, haro'eh bashoshanim." I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine, who pastures amongst the roses."

"Hashem is your protection, Hashem is your shadow (Tzilcha) on your right side." (Psalms 121:5)

There is a famous thought from the Ba'al Shem Tov on the words "Hashem Tzilcha".

He said that "your shadow" means that Hashem shadows us in the world. Just as a shadow moves with in synch with the person and never leaves him, the way we choose to conduct ourselves in the world is the way Hashem conducts Himself with us. If we engage in acts of chesed, then Hashem responds in kind by showing us His infinite chesed. Our ways below, arouse and elicit Hashem's response from above.

This is "Ani l'Dodi v'Dodi li"; I am my beloved's and in return, my beloved is mine. By taking your beloved into your heart, it prompts your beloved to take you into His.

The advice for one who wants to emerge meritorious on Rosh HaShanah is to unite himself with the entirety of Klal Yisroel. This idea, the secret of Rosh Hashanah is found in the Holy Zohar (Beshalach) concerning the Shunamite woman. (2 Kings 4:1-37 and the Haftorah for Parshas VaYera) She made a special room on her roof for the traveling prophet Elisha, that he could use according to his needs. One day Elisha finds the woman at home and asks her if he can do any thing to repay her kindness. He asked, "Is there something I can say to the King on your behalf"? (v.14) She answers only, "I prefer to dwell amongst my people." It is clear that she wished to derive no personal benefit from the mitzvoh of chesed she had done. Yet the Zohar understands that Elisha is really asking her if he can represent her in front of Hashem on Rosh HaShanah, giving her a special mention. The woman replies firmly and absolutely, "I prefer to dwell amongst my people." I don't want to be singled out, perhaps I don't have enough merit to stand alone. I wish only to be judged together with Klal Yisroel. Only in the unity of the people is our judgment secure.

How does one come to this feeling of love and closeness for the Jewish people? It takes special insight. One must learn to look at a Jew in a new and special way. In essence all Jews have a common denominator, for our souls were all hewn out from the same place; a special repository underneath the Throne of Glory.

In each Jew lies a spark of this soul, that no matter how distant he becomes from Hashem, can never be extinguished. Through sincere meditation on this idea, one will soon come to see that every Jew is REALLY HIS BROTHER OR SISTER; a member of the same family. They are in essence parts of ONE WHOLE; one soul just separated by physical bodies.

This provides us with a wonderful explanation for the verse, "Love your neighbor as yourself, I am Hashem."

(Vayikra 19:18) Why does the verse add "I am Hashem"? Love your neighbor as yourself; of course! He is in essence your very self. I am Hashem; I am the spark which is in each and every one of you; I am the common denominator. Return to Me, since all things seek the source of their beginnings. When you return to me in Teshuvah, you bring about unification of the Jewish people.

"With trumpets and with the voice of the shofar you shall blow before Hashem your King." (Psalms 98 and found in Kabbalos Shabbos)

The Great Maggid of Mezritch explained that the two trumpets were made out of one piece of beaten silver. Silver is kesef, which means to long for or desire. They represent the longing of the soul to return ans reunite with its source. The two trumpets are blown and the sounds unite in harmony, symbolizing the reunification of the soul which had been rent asunder from its source.

The sound of the shofar brings on Teshuvah (repentance). "So great is Teshuvah that it reaches until the Throne of Glory". (Talmud Yuma 86a) Plain and simple it is true. Through Teshuvah the soul is reuntied with it source at the Throne of Glory.

"I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine", represents two parts of the whole longing to reunify. ". . who pastures in the roses." The Holy Zohar refers to the Supernal aspect of G-d as Shoshana, a rose. (Introduction) A rose while still closed is only green and it's true beauty and fragrance are hidden. Only when it opens is it's full splendor revealed, which was in fact concealed there all the time. "I will be like dew for Israel, and he will open like a rose. . .". (Hoshea 14:6)

A Jew may be simple and unlearned on the outside, but at his essence every Jew is the other half of the soul of Hashem, a beautiful and fragrant rose, the possessor of a holy spark.

The advice for one who wants to emerge meritorious on Rosh HaShanah. . .to prepare yourself by seeking the holy sparks in each and every Jew, and relating to them as a member of your own family. Their joy is yours and their sorrow yours as well. "Siman Tov and Mazel for us and for all Israel!

When one humbles oneself to include all of Klal Yisroel in his reality, discovering that ever-glowing spark in his soul, the resplendent rose in which no malignancy can ever take root, Hashem will surely bind with us and we will experience the ultimate joy and peace.
(Based on Yismach Yisroel vol.2, on Rosh Chodesh Elul, essay #2)

Selichos - Hear our Prayer for Forgiveness

This week, at midnight, Motzaei Shabbos, Ashkenazic Jewry begins to recite the Selichos prayers.

There are many different terms used to express forgiveness in the Torah and Rabbinic liturgy. "Yislach", "kapara" (atonement), "nosay avone", (bear iniquity) "ovair al pesha", (forgive transgression) "Nirtzeh avono", (the teshuvah for the iniquity is acceptable) "avonasee macha" (erase my sin) "kabsainee ma'avonee", (cleanse me from iniquity) "may'chatosee taharaynee" (purify me from my sin) and more.

Each one has of course, its special meaning and represents a unique form of a tikkun. For instance when one says, "I have removed from you all your transgression", it infers that the transgressions have a reality of their own, only now they are removed from any association with the person. "Bears iniquity; that the iniquity remains, only Hashem bears it and suffers with it. "He squashes iniquity", means that Hashem represses it's effects. But when sin or iniquity is forgiven, then the result is as if the sin never had a existence at all. Selicha means complete forgiveness so that there remains absolutely no trace of the sin. For only Selicha can denote absolute forgiveness.

It is interesting to note therefore, that the word Selicha, in all of the Tanach and is only used by Hashem himself and never between one person and another. A person cannot repair something as if it was never ruined. Only Hashem can give absolute forgiveness so that the transgression is forgiven as if it never occurred.
(from Sefer HaCarmel of the Malbim, "selach")

A Guten Shabbos!

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