Parshas Ki Savo
September 11th-12th, 1998
21 Elul, 5758
This week's issue was written by Rabbi Dovid Frost, in honor of the yahrzeit of his
father--l'zecher nishmas Avraham ben Chayim Shmuel.
This week's parsha begins with a mitzvah that seems to be very simple and
straightforward-- bikurim, the bringing of the first fruits to the Bais Hamikdash.
The profound lessons it teaches, however, are greatly important for all to
The basic requirement of the mitzvah was to bring to the Temple a portion of the first
fruits of the seven special species of the Land of Israel (wheat, barley, grapes, figs,
pomegranates, olives and dates). After presenting them to the Kohen, the individual
recited a special declaration of thanks unto G-d that briefly reviewed our history as a
nation, from Lavan's attempt to destroy Yaakov down through the Egyptian exile and
servitude, our subsequent redemption and, finally, our coming into the land...whose fruits
he was now bringing as bikurim.
Two questions come to mind. First, why does the
Torah require this verbal declaration? (History lessons are very nice, but why right
here?) Second, what connection does the mitzvah of bikurim have with the commandment
to eradicate the memory of Amalek which immediately precedes it in the Torah, at the end
of parshas Ki Seitzei?
The Sefer HaChinuch explains that since Hashem has been
so beneficent to a person, blessing him with the fruits of a good land and giving him the
merit to present them in the House of Hashem, it is proper for him to awaken his heart
with special words and to contemplate ALL the kindness that the Master of the World has
shown him. That kindness did not start with him alone, but rather, extends back
throughout our whole history as a people--back to the days of Yaakov, who was rescued from
Lavan, and to our redemption from slavery. This declaration, then, helps a person
articulate (and internalize) the awareness that everything comes from the Holy One,
Blessed be He.
To help us learn gratitude for every detail in our lives, then, is how the Sefer HaChinuch
sums up the mitzvah of bikurim.
Along the same lines, Rav Nissan Alpert, z'tl (one of my rebbies), writes that the
recognition of good in the present cannot be complete unless you take into account all the
kindnesses that Hashem has done in the past. In fact, if you do not pay attention to
the past, you will ultimately fail to appreciate the good of the present.
Now, we can understand why remembering Amalek is connected to bikurim. As the Sages
explain, the reason Amalek came to war against the Jewish people after we left Egypt was
because we lacked appreciation for all that Hashem had done for us. Despite the open
miracles and constant protection of Hashem experienced by every individual Jew, some still
said, "Is Hashem among us or not?" (Exodus: 17, 7) Because of that
lack of gratitude, Amalek came along to remind the Jewish people of Who had been watching
over them all along.
Appropriately, the nation of Amalek epitomizes ingratitude itself! The Rabbis tell
us that when Yaakov went down to Egypt, thereby fulfilling Hashem's decree that Avraham's
children would be slaves in a strange land, he was "paying off" a divine debt
that was actually shared by his brother, Esav, as well. Through suffering as slaves,
Yaakov's children earned the right to the Land of Israel; Esav, on the other hand, never
paid the debt. And, yet, Amalek--a nation descended from the grandchild of
Esav--refused to let the Jewish people enter the Land of Israel peacefully, and even tried
to destroy them.
For our ingratitude, then, a nation of ingrates was sent to impede us. The mitzvah of
bikurim follows the reminder to destroy Amalek to remind us even more forcefully of our
constant obligation to be thankful.
Let's get personal. When was the last time you
thanked someone for a favor he or she did for you? Do we thank our spouses for ALL
that they do to help our lives go more smoothly? If we don't show gratitude at
home--even for the "little" things--, it's unlikely we'll thank G-d for the good
He gives us.
This is our portion in life--to thank Hashem. We say Modim (near the end of Shemoneh
Esrei) three times a day: it means, "we thank," or, more precisely, "we
admit." We need to admit our dependence on others, and on G-d--i.e., to thank
them. Our very name, Jew (yehudi), comes from the same root as modeh. Clearly,
it's a crucial aspect of our lives.
Insights Into Genesis
Insights Into Exodus
Edelstein is Director of the Savannah Kollel/ Savannah Torah Education Project. Phone:
fax: 354-9923; e-mail address: Yosef18@aol.com
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LEARN ABOUT THE INNER MEANING OF THIS HOLY DAY.
CONTINUING THIS THURSDAY, 6-WEEK CRASH COURSE IN HEBREW READING. 7:45PM AT THE
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