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Parasha Insights

By Rabbi Yitschak Hacohen Tawil

“Today you have become a nation” (27:9).

The Torah describes us as being born a nation on the day that we accepted upon ourselves to be loyal and faithful to G-d’s Torah! At this stage we were still a wandering nation roaming in the wilderness, with no land of our own and none of the natural physical means of existence demanded for a nation.

  1. Shimshon Refael Hirsch notes how, in G-d’s eyes, the Jewish nation doesn’t begin from when we receive our country or adopt our own language. It begins when we accept upon ourselves the yoke of Torah and Mitzvoth. Only once we have Torah and Mitzvoth is Eretz Yisrael considered an additional asset, enabling us to reach even higher spiritual goals.

“Cursed is the man who…” (27:15-26).

Seforno comments that any and every sin committed is most definitely a cause for curse and sorrow. He asks, why then do we find in our Parsha that the Torah identifies certain specific sins in association with the curses. In what way are they different to all other sins?

Seforno explains that the sins that are singled out in our Parsha are either of the type that are normally performed in secret, or sins which are inside the mind, or sins which are performed by leaders and high officials. The Torah informs us that the associated curses are focussed specifically at the sinner himself because we do not observe the act of sin being performed, and in the case of the leaders we are usually not in the position to rebuke them because our words would not be influential. For other sins however, not only is the sinner to be cursed but also anybody who was able to rebuke the sinner and prevent him from sinning! By watching the sinner and remaining quiet, he displays that the act of sin doesn’t bother him too much and he therefore also gets caught up in the curse!

The Rashbam explains our portion in a different light. There are certain openly performed sins that are witnessed and can be judged and duly punished for by the Beth Din. The sins mentioned in our portion are usually performed in secret and remain unrevealed. The sinner mistakenly comforts himself with the feeling that nobody can see him, and heretically demonstrates his lack of appreciation that G-d constantly sees and is fully aware of all the sins that he performs, even in the greatest secrecy. In the absence of sufficient proof, Beth Din are unable to judge and sentence the sinner. The Torah informs us that we shouldn’t even think for a moment that any sin is overlooked. This sinner who acts in secret indicates disbelief, making out as though he can hide from G-d and perform sin! The Torah informs us that such an individual deserves even greater form of punishment than a normal sinner does, and he duly receives a specific curse quite apart from the general curse for not keeping to G-d’s Command!

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