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Ki Tavo – Catch Up!

By Rabbi Jonathan Tawil

Ki Tavo is always read just before Rosh Hashanah and it gives us good preparation for the days of Judgment.

As the year ends and we start to concentrate on a better future, we ask Hashem Tichleh Shana Vekileloteha – may the year and all its curses end. Our Sages (Gemara Megila) state that it is for this reason that we read 98 curses in this weeksparsha – just before Rosh Hashanah.

The count of curses is 98 and it is equivalent to the word “צח” (shiny clean), and also to the word “סלח” “forgive”.

The section dealing with the curses begins on a positive note, if we keep to the Torah we are promised much blessing.

Though; one statement seems to stand out; “the blessings will be upon you and they will reach you” (28:2).

Our Sages find difficulty in this Pasuk. If blessings are upon us of course they will reach us! Why the redundancy?

There are two answers I would like to share with you.

The Ben Ish Chai (Od Yosef Chai) explains with a fantastic Mashal. There was once a poor married couple who were finding it hard to survive. One Friday the wife heard that there was a special sale of fish going on in the market place. Tasty fish were being sold for half price. The husband was a simple man, he enjoyed his learning and never liked going out. Being Friday the wife asked him to go to the market and make the purchase – it was a once in a lifetime sale. After much persuasion the husband agreed and set out.

He arrived at the market, which was heavily populated with people searching for bargains. One fish monger noticed the simple man, and tried to sell him a large fish, that, shall we say was a little bit past its sell by date. “Try this one sir, look how massive it is, how many people it can feed, and its half price today!” The simple man, might have looked simple but he took one smell and realised that the fish wasn’t the most fresh. The seller implored him and spent a long time convincing him to buy the fish. After much persuasion and haggling, the man finally bought the fish at 20% of its original value. What a bargain!

He arrived home and slowly he realised his mistake. “My wife is not going to be pleased with this, she is going to realise that the fish is a bit old”, he thought to himself. He decided that the only option would be for him to cook it himself, disguise the bad odour with some spices and sauce that he would concoct and serve it straight to his wife. As he took the knife to cut the fish, he realised that the skin was so tough that he needed a stronger knife. Eventually after much effort he managed to cut the fish. To his surprise, as he opened up the fish, he found a large gem. It was worth a fortune!

Here was a man, who never wanted to go to the market, yet ended up going. He never wanted to buy the fish, yet ended up buying it. He never really wanted to open the fish, yet ended up opening it. Here was a man, explains the Ben Ish Chai, who subconsciously ran away from the Beracha. Nevertheless due to Hashem’s wish of him receiving the Beracha, the Beracha ran after him – Vehisigucha – and reached him.

The blessings in this weeksParsha, wont just be available to us on the outside. They will even run after us, the will chase us until they have reached their target.

The DegelMachanehEfrayim, takes this idea a step further.

Noticing the ending of the Pasuk Ki TishmaBkol Hashem Elokecha – all these blessings will chase you, when you listen to the voice of Hashem your G-d. He explains that the righteous person is reluctant to receive worldly blessings. They potentially stand in the way of his spiritual growth, and therefore he doesn’t desire them.

In this case Hashem does not do the bidding of the righteous. He does not deprive them, rather He blesses them. Why is this so? It is because “Ki TishmaBkol Hashem Elokecha” – Hashem sends the blessings to a person whom He knows that even after the blessings reach him, will still continue to hearken to Hashem’s voice. Sometimes we cherish receiving a blessing and finally get it. Only to shortly forget its real value and Who sent it. The Tsadik receives enjoys and continues to serve Hashem with greater strength and is thus blessed.

A second understanding of our Pasuk is offered by Rabbi Schlesinger in Bet Av

The ultimate blessing is to receive the benefit and be aware of it. Sometimes, Hashem showers a person with so much blessing- health, a fine family, abundant wealth – and still the person is not satisfied. What good are these blessings to him if they do not satisfy him? Rashi writes (Avos 4:1) that a person can be the richest of the rich, but if he is dissatisfied he is no better off than the poorest of the poor. On the other hand, a person can have just a little bit, but if he is satisfied with it, he is blessed.

This is what the Torah means by the words “they will reach you.” Even if all the blessings “come upon you,” you will not be truly blessed if you are dissatisfied, if you do not appreciate what Hashem has done for you. Only if they penetrate, if “they will reach you,” will you be considered truly blessed.

As Rosh Hashana fast approaches, let us take a look around us and concentrate on our blessings. Let us appreciate them and come to a realisation that everything around us emanates from Hashem.

LirfuatYitschak Ben Ester BetochShaarCholei Yisrael

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