Ki Savo 5778

כי תבוא

Parshas Ki Savo

The Importance of Being Grateful

The Parsha this week begins with the Mitzvah of Bikurim (bringing of the first fruits). Last week’s Parsha ended with the Mitzvah that tells us to recall what Amalek did to the B’nei Yisroel and therefore it is our duty to totally annihilate them. Is there any relation between the two mitzvos?

The Rabbis in the Sifri derive from the verse at the onset of this week’s Parsha והיה כי תבוא אל הארץ, – And it shall be when you enter the land, עשה מצוה האמורה בענין שבשכרה תיכנס לארץ – do the Mitzvah that is written here, namely Bikurim, in order that in its merit you will be able to enter the Land of Israel. This triggers a bit of a dilemma. Rashi on this very pasuk quotes the Gemarah [1] that the Mitzvah of Bikurim is only applicable upon entrance into the Land of Israel, if so how is it feasible that one should execute this mitzvah in order to gain entry into Eretz Yisroel?

An obvious solution would seem to be based on a passage in the Gemarah [2] כל המביא דורון לת”ח כאילו הקריב ביכורים – whoever offers a present to a Torah scholar it is as if he brought forth bikurim. Therefore, even though the actual offering of Bikurim was only possible after entry in to Eretz Yisroel, other mitzvos derived from bikurim where achievable at that time. It can now be understood that performance of this Mitzvah of bringing a present to a Torah scholar will cause a person to merit entry into Israel.

At this time it seems fitting to explain the correlation between offering Bikurim and providing a gift to a Torah scholar.

First we must gain a deeper understanding of the Mitzvah of Bikurim. What is the rationale behind the mitzvah of bringing the Bikurim to the Bais HaMikdash? What is the reason that while the fruits are brought to the Kohen their donation is accompanied by a proclamation [3] expressing one’s appreciation to Hashem in the framework of a brief history of the Jewish people? Rashi brings the words of our Rabbis [4] in regard to Bikurim- “A person goes down into his field and when he sees a ripe fig, he would wrap a “gemi” (a blade of grass) around it, and declare, “This is bikurim.” What is the significance of a “gemi”?

The Medrash in Parshas Bereshis states [5] that the world was created for the sake of that which is called Reishis, thus the world was created for the sake of the Mitzvah of Bikkurim, which is called Reishis as stated in the verse ולקחת מראשית כל פרי האדמה – you shall take from the first of all the fruit of the ground. The Alshich HaKodesh [6] expresses concern regarding this Medrash. He notes that Bikkurim would not seem to be in anyone’s list of the most significant mitzvos and yet here this Medrash states that the entire world was created for the sake of this mitzvah! What message is the Medrash trying to convey?

The Alshich answers that the essence of Mitzvas Bikkurim is hakaras hatov – expressing gratitude, which is one of the most basic and most rudimentary requirements of the Torah. HaKaras haTov is so crucial that the whole world’s creation was just for the sake of this mitzvah which educates us and trains us in expression of of gratitude.

The Rabbis say [7], “There is nothing more “difficult” for Hashem to live with (so to speak) than an unappreciative person. The reason Adam was exiled from the Garden of Eden was due to his lack of gratitude. His sin was not purely eating from the Etz HaDaas (Tree of Knowledge). For that sin alone he could have, possibly remained in Gan Eden. However, the underlying sin that caused his banishment was the fact that in response to Hashem’s question why he ate from the Etz HaDaas, Adam said [8], “The woman that you gave me, it was she who gave me of the fruit, and therefore I ate it.” As Rashi points out, Adam was being unthankful. Hashem presented him Chava as a precious gift, and nonetheless Adam complained that she caused him to sin.

The Medrash [9] compares the sin of ingratitude with “kefira b’ikar” (fundamental theological rejection) of Hashem. One who is ungrateful towards his fellow man is in due course ungrateful towards the Almighty as well.

HaKaras HaTov is crucial in belief of Hashem and that is why Bikurim, which is called Reishis, is one of the most primary mitzvos and the cause of the creation of the world.

A farmer toils works hard at plowing his field, tilling the soil, and seeding the ground. When he arrives at the field and sees fruit beginning to grow he may be carried away with his success thinking, [10]“Kochi ve’otzem yadi asah li es hachayil hazeh” (My strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth) and forget that all of nature are in reality the works of Hashem.

The Famous Chasidic Rebbe, Reb Moshe Leib of Sassov [11] said that the word “gemi” is an acronym for “gedolim ma’aseh Hashem” (Great are the wonders of Hashem). When the farmer sees the labor of his hands reaching fruition and the fruit beginning to cover the ground, he should immediately tie a “gemi” to it in recognition that it is the great work of Hashem and not his own achievement, and praise Him out loud for it. As Rashi [12], says v’amarta eilav (you shall say to the Kohen), she’aincha kafuy tova,- in order to show that you are not lacking in appreciation.

The Gemarah [13] says that a heavenly voice announces: The entire world is being fed ‘bishvil’ (for the sake of) my son Chanina (Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa) and Chanina himself suffices with a measure of a kav (which amounts to the volume equivalent of 24 eggs) of carob which lasts him from one Friday to the next.

The simple meaning of ‘bishvil’ is ‘for the sake of.’ However, the Toldos Yaakov Yoseph [14] brings in the name his teacher the Baal Shem Tov [15] that a ‘shvil’ can also be understood as a pathway thus in effect what the Heavenly voice was implying was that Rebbi Chanina created a conduit that channeled blessing to the entire world. This is the meaning of “on account of My son Chanina,” Just like a pathway, that through it everything passes, so to he transmitted blessing to the world while he only received a insignificant measure of carobs. It is now understandable why bringing a gift to a Torah scholar is equated with bringing Bikurim for both are signs of gratitude.

Bringing a gift to a Torah scholar, who through his service of Hashem creates the “pipeline” through which blessing and abundance come down to this world, is therefore a sign of HaKaras HaTov.

The Rabbis in the Mechilta [16] say, “Let Amalek-who are kofuy tova… (they fail to recognize the kindness and good people do for them) We thus see that Amalek has the inherent trait of being ungrateful, which in turn is a sign of their being kofer b’Ikar (fundamentaly rejecting theology). However, where do we find at that moment in history that the nation of Amalek was kofuy tova? The decree [17] כי גר יהיה זרעכם בארץ לא להם – that your offspring will be strangers in a strange land was intended for all the children of Yitzchock, which would include Esav. However, Esav avoided this decree by moving to Se’ar, and thus not suffering at the hands of the Egyptians. It was left solely to Yaakov to fulfil this edict. In effect then, the Jewish people through their bondage not only paid their own debt but they also paid the debt of Esav [18]. Amalek, who are descendants of Esav, should have therefore received the Jews graciously upon their exodus from Egypt, but instead they attacked and waged war on the Children of Israel. This is why Parshas Ki Seitzei ends with the story of Amalek, and why the first chapter in Ki Savo begins with Bikurim-hakaras hatov. It teaches us that the only way to counteract Amalek is by not being a kafuy tov.

Good Shabbos.

Rabbi Sochet

[1] Tractate Kiddushin 37B
[2] Tractate Kesubos 105A
[3] Deuteronomy 26:5-10
[4] Tractate Bikurim 3:1
[5] Braishis Rabbah 1:4
[6] Rabbi Moshe 1522-1570 was the author of many works, including important analytical explanations of Scriptures.
[7] see Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer Chapter 7
[8] Breishis 3:12
[9] Shmos Rabbah 1:10
[10] Deuteronomy 8:17
[11] 1745-1807 he was primarily famous for his love of his fellow Jews and his creative musical talent. His teachings are contained in the books, Likutei RaMal, Toras ReMaL Hashalem, and Chidushei RaMal.
[12] In this very chapter 26:3
[13] Tractate Taanis 24B
[14] Rabbi Yaakov Yosef HaKohain of Polnoye who passed away in 1784. He was one of the earliest and closest rabbinical disciples of the Baal Shem Tov. He was the first to author a book of Chassidic teachings, called Toldos Yaakov Yoseph.
[15] Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer the Baal Shem Tov [“master of the good Name”], 1698-1760. He founded the Chassidic movement. He authored no books, although his disciples disseminated his teachings in lectures and in published form.
[16] In parshas Beshalach
[17] Breishis 15:13
[18] See Breishis Rabbah 82:13