Parashas Ki Savo

Parashas Ki Savo includes a long litany of curses that we will suffer if we do not serve Hashem properly. The very last curse is as follows (Devarim 28:68): “And Hashem will send you back to Egypt in boats, along the way I told you that you should never see again, and you will offer yourselves for sale there to your enemies as slaves and maidservants, but no one will buy.”
In Esther Rabbah Pesichasa 3, the Midrash points out that Hashem warned us in the Torah three times not to return to Egypt. The first two verses the Midrash quotes are as follows:
1.   Shemos 14:13: For as you see Egypt today, you will not see them ever again.
2.   Devarim 17:16: For Hashem has told you that you must not go back that way again.
The third verse the Midrash quotes is the verse from our parashah that we quoted above. But in quoting this verse, the Midrash quotes only the first part – “And Hashem will send you back to Egypt in boats” – omitting the usual “etc.” Thus, in connection with this verse, the Midrash seems to stress the warning that we could be sent back to Egypt, rather than the warning that we must not go back there. The Maggid notes this feature, and draws from it an important message.
The Maggid explains that each land has its own special attributes, and Hashem matched each nation with the land whose attributes accord with that nation’s specific character. The Land of Israel is a land uniquely conducive to spiritual pursuits. And the People of Israel is a nation particularly geared toward spirituality, as reflected in the Torah’s dictates. Thus, the Land of Israel and the People of Israel are perfectly matched to each other. But this is so only when the People of Israel are faithful to their spiritual calling. When they flout the Torah and stray from serving Hashem properly, involving themselves instead in the wayward practices of other nations, they are at odds with the land. Hashem therefore exiles them from the Land of Israel and scatters them all across the world, planting each one in the land most suited to his particular form of deviance.
The Maggid then ties this idea in with the three verses quoted in the Midrash in Esther Rabbah. In the first verse, Hashem promises us that “as you have seen Egypt today, you will not see them ever again.” In the second verse, Hashem attaches a condition to the promise: if “you will not go back on that way again.” That is, if we do not act as they do, then we will not see them again. But if we return to their wayward practices, then we will be treated accordingly: “Hashem will send you back to Egypt in boats.” For then, the land that will most suit us is not the holy Land of Israel, but rather the defiled Land of Egypt, the natural habitat for decadence.
The message for us today – especially for those of us who have the merit of living in the Land of Israel – is that we must adhere steadfastly to the Torah path, and take care to avoid adopting the lowly ways of other cultures.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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