Parashas Ki Savo

This week’s parashah describes the blessings Hashem will grant us if we obey His Torah and the curses He will cast upon us if we do not. One of the principal curses mentioned is the curse of exile (Devarim 28:64): “And Hashem will disperse you among all the nations, from one end of the earth to the other.” This leads the Maggid to expound on the hardship of exile. He builds on the following passage (Tehillim 89:47-48): “Until when, Hashem, will You perpetually hide Yourself, will Your wrath burn like fire? I bear in mind the transience of my life….” We present the Maggid’s explanation of the second part of this passage, which he develops through an analogy.
Suppose, the Maggid says, that a craftsman takes a loan, and gives one of his tools as collateral. It is clear that if the creditor uses the tool, he will cause it wear and tear. But suppose he does not use the tool, but merely keeps it in his house. In this case, if the tool is a simple, ordinary one, the only loss the craftsman will suffer from the tool being in the creditor’s house is the loss caused by his inability to do certain types of work without the tool. However, there are some special tools that need regular maintenance. If the tool the creditor is holding onto is of this type, and the creditor does not know how to take care of it, his mere holding onto it will cause it damage.
The parallel is as follows. When we were firmly settled in our land, we were safeguarded under a regular system of maintenance. The rabbis of the public rabbinical courts served as watchmen to guard us from evildoing. The Kohanim would cleanse us from sin twice a day, through the daily public morning and afternoon offerings. In this vein, regarding Yeshayahu’s description of Yerushalayim as a city in which “justice abides” (Yeshayah 1:21), the Sages remark that no one who lived in Yerushalayim ever suffered the taint of sin, because the morning offering would atone for the sins committed the previous night, and the afternoon offering would atone for the sins committed during the day (Yalkut Shimoni, Torah 786). The public offerings brought on Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, and Yamim Tovim provided additional protection against the corroding effects of time, so that we remained constantly in perfect condition. But now that we are in exile, we have lost all this. We have no Holy Temple, no offerings, no Kohanim performing any of the Temple service, and no prophets. Our souls are cast in the dirt. How can we not be overcome by the evil inclination? We are no longer under safeguard; we no longer undergo regular maintenance to prevent corrosion. Without this maintenance, our souls corrode automatically with the passage of time. This idea is reflected in the psalmist’s statement: “I bear in mind the transience of my life.” Here, the Hebrew term used for “transience” is chaled, which is related to the word chaludah, meaning “rust” or “corrosion.”
In a related vein, David HaMelech writes (Tehillim 17:8-9): “Guard me as the apple of the eye, shelter me in the shadow of Your wings – from the wicked ones that have plundered me, my soul’s enemies that encompass me.” Here, David is saying the following: “Even if the wicked do not actively injure me, my soul is still acutely aware of the great harm they cause me. My soul, like that of any man, is already surrounded by enemies: the drives for various forms of pleasure and the tendency toward haughtiness. A man must fight to subdue these inner enemies. But when the wicked besiege a man from the outside, his inner enemies are aroused and press him more strongly.” It is like a general who sets out to wage war against another country, but takes with him only a small cohort of soldiers, because he knows that many residents of the other country already oppose their leadership – they are waiting to him to come so they can join forces with him. Our outside enemies need do no more than to coax our inner enemies into action – to prompt our drives to overcome our intellect – and then our downfall is almost sure to follow. We must plead with Hashem to redeem us from the exile and save us from this peril.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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