Parashas Ki Savo

This week’s parashah describes the blessings we will receive if we obey Hashem’s will and the curses we will suffer if we do not. In the passage of the blessings, the Torah says (Devarim 28:2): “All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you, for you will be harkening to the voice of Hashem, your God.” The Torah later says further (ibid. 28:13-14): “Hashem will open for you His storehouse of good, the heavens, to provide your land’s rain in its time and bless all your handiwork … for you will be harkening to the commandments of Hashem your God.” The Maggid says that there is a storehouse of good from which the righteous receive their assets, and a storehouse of bad from which the wicked receive their assets. The Maggid then goes on to explain what this means.
A wicked person is obsessed with material benefits, and he will use any means to gain them. He will rob and cheat others to get the money he needs for his indulgences. His assets therefore come from the storehouse of bad. No matter how much he gets, he is never satisfied. If he gets one hundred, he wants two hundred (cf. Koheles Rabbah 3:12). In this vein, Yeshayah says (verse 56:11): “The dogs are greedy, they do not know when they have enough.” The pleasures he gains actually wear him down, and cause him pain and anxiety. Regarding such a person, Michah wonders (verse 6:10): “Are there still stores of wickedness in the house of the wicked, or a lean measure that provokes anger?” Because he acquires his assets unjustly, he gains no blessing from them. The goods he obtains never satisfy him, and he always feels he has too lean a measure of worldly benefits.
In describing the affliction He will bring on the wicked, Hashem says (Yechezkel 5:16): “When I send upon [you] the evil arrows of famine that cause destruction, which I send to destroy you, I will further set famine upon you, and I will break your staff of bread.” At first glance, this statement seems odd; it as if Hashem is saying: “I will make you suffer famine, and, furthermore, I will make you suffer famine.” But in light of what we explained above, we can understand the statement well. Even before Hashem punishes the wicked they feel famine, for they are constantly working, through evil means, to gain more and more. Eventually Hashem adds to their suffering by punishing them with actual famine.
A righteous person, on the other hand, sees material benefits only as a means of sustaining himself so that he can serve Hashem. He certainly will not violate Hashem’s will in acquiring them. He makes his living only through honest means, spurning theft and deceit. His assets therefore come from the storehouse of good. David HaMelech says (Tehillim 145:16): “You [Hashem] open Your hand, and satisfy every living thing with favor.” One whose assets come from the storehouse of good is satisfied with what he gets. As Shlomo HaMelech says (Mishlei 10:22): “Hashem’s blessing brings riches, and does not bring with it an increase of grief.” The righteous man does not feel grief over not having received more. Hashem therefore readily opens His hand to him, for He knows that he will be satisfied.
Moshe pleads (Tehillim 90:14): “Satisfy us in the morning with Your kindness, and we will we jubilate and rejoice all our days.” The term satisfy does not refer only to fulfillment of the need for food; it is also used in other senses, as we find in several Biblical verses (Bereishis 35:29, Iyov 42:17, Divrei HaYamim Alef 23:1, Tehillim 85:4 and 123:3). In general, the term satisfy refers to a process reaching completion, either for good or for bad. Now, when a wicked person has gained his fill (for the moment) of wealth and worldly pleasures, he has reached his goal. This is not so of a righteous person, for, as we said, he sees material benefits only as a means to enable him to serve Hashem through mitzvos. Even if he lives in comfort, with his table loaded with plenty, he does regard himself as having “made it.” His material assets in themselves do not lead him to rejoice. Rather, he takes the attitude that Shlomo HaMelech advocates (Koheles 2:24): “It is not good for man to eat and drink, and show his soul satisfaction in his labor.” He feels that he has reached his goal only when he has used his material assets to perform righteous deeds. This is the idea behind Moshe’s plea: “Satisfy us in the morning with Your kindness, and we will we jubilate and rejoice all our days.” He is saying: “Please, in Your kindness, enable us to reach the ultimate goal in this world, to serve You in a complete way. And then we will jubilate and rejoice all our days.”
A parallel principle applies to misfortunes. When a wicked person is stricken with poverty or bodily afflictions, these misfortunes make him suffer, but have no further effect. But when a righteous person is stricken in such a way, the misfortunes hamper him in his effort to do good deeds, and so the misfortunes cause double damage. In this vein, David HaMelech pleads (Tehillim 123:3): “Be gracious to us, Hashem, be gracious to us, for we are fully sated with disgrace.” David repeats his plea to Hashem to be gracious because of the great measure of disgrace that our misfortunes cause us – a much greater measure than they would cause others. Elsewhere, the sons of Korach present a similar plea (ibid. 88:3-4): “Let my prayer come before You, incline Your ear to my cry, for my soul is sated with troubles.” The thought behind this plea is the same.
The Torah describes the righteous person’s response when he receives his portion from the storehouse of good (Devarim 8:10): “You will eat, and be satisfied, and bless Hashem.” In blessing Hashem, the righteous person reflects on the fact that the bounty he received will enable him to perform mitzvos. As it is written (Tehillim 85:13-14): “Hashem, too, will provide bounty, and our land will bring forth its produce” – and then, as a result, “righteousness will proceed before Him, and set its footsteps on the way.” In parallel, the Torah likewise describes the wicked person’s response when he receives his portion from the storehouse of bad (Devarim 31:20): “They will eat, and be satisfied, and grow fat, and turn to other gods and serve them; they will anger Me and violate My covenant.”
We return now to the verse we quoted at the outset: “All these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, for you will be hearkening to the voice of Hashem, your God.” When the righteous person hearkens to Hashem’s voice and performs mitzvos, Hashem showers him with blessing, for He knows that the blessing will lead him to continue hearkening to His voice and performing mitzvos.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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