Parashas Ki Savo

This week’s parashah presents the tochachah, the litany of curses that will befall us if we stray from the Torah path. I present here two selections from the Maggid’s commentary on this passage.
1. The Torah states (Devarim 28:34): “And you will turn crazy at the sight of your eyes that you will see.” Usually a crazy person believes that he is behaving appropriately, and only others recognize that he is crazy. But sometimes a person is forced to act in a peculiar way that he himself knows is crazy. For example, when David was captured by the Philistines, he feigned insanity, scribbling on the doors of the gateway and letting saliva drip into his beard, in order to gain his release (Shmuel Alef 21:14). This is the state of affairs that the Torah is describing – in our great distress we will be forced to take such bizarre actions that in the sight of our own eyes we will be crazy.
2. A few verses later, the Torah states further (Devarim 28:39): “You will plant vineyards and work them, but you will not drink and not gather in, for the worm will eat it.” In interpreting this verse, the Maggid directs our attention to two related verses. Yeshayah prophesies (verse 16:10): “Gladness and joy will cease from fertile field, and in the vineyards there will be no rejoicing or shouting for joy. The treader will not tread out wine in the winepresses – I have put an end to [the joyous cry of] ‘Heidad.’” Yirmiyah 48:33 presents a prophecy along the same lines. The Maggid expounds on the pathetic situation where a vineyard owner is unable to partake of wine from his vineyard.
In describing the workings of the world that Hashem created, David HaMelech declares (Tehillim 104:14-15): He [Hashem] causes vegetation to sprout for the animal, and plants, through man’s labor, to bring forth bread from the earth and wine that gladdens man’s heart.” The Maggid tells us that this verse contains both a description of blessing and an allusion to misfortune. A person may enjoy blessing: He may have an estate comprising many fields and vineyards yielding every type of crop and meeting all his needs, so that he has no need to buy and sell in the marketplace. He then dwells in security “beneath his vineyard and beneath his fig tree” (Melachim Alef 5:5), and is satisfied with his bread and gladdened by his wine. And the workers trampling grapes in the winepress joyously cry out “Heidad,” anticipating the joy they will feel when the drink the wine. Conversely, a person may suffer misfortune, having only a small share in some vineyard, and forced to sell the wine he produces to obtain bread and other necessities. He wishes for a natural state of affairs, with his bread coming from the earth rather than through sale of wine, and with his wine serving its natural function of bringing gladness to his heart. We can now understand the verses from Yeshayah and Yirmiyah that we cited – in the poor man’s small vineyard there is no cry of “Heidad” when the workers trample the grapes, for they will partake only a little, if at all, of the wine they are producing.
The Maggid brings out the idea further with a parable. A man married a woman who had previously been married and had children from her previous marriage. The time came for her first son to get married, and there was much dancing and rejoicing at his wedding. The guests urged the stepfather to join in the rejoicing, but he declined. He said: “The main reason a father rejoices at a son’s wedding is as an expression of thanks for the new beginning that is being made – the father has in mind the joy he will have as he sees the marriage flourishing over time, with the couple having children and achieving success. But here, the boy getting married is not my own son, but rather my wife’s son. I know I will not gain as much satisfaction from him as I would from a son of my own. I hope only that I suffer no aggravation from him.” Similarly, the poor man with his humble vineyard does not rejoice when the grapes are trampled, for he knows that wine being produced will not be his; he hopes only that he will make enough money on the sale of the wine to meet his basic needs.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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