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Friday, September 4

The Weekly Shtikle - Ki Savo

The bulk of this week's parsha is taken up by the tochacha, literally the rebuke, in which we are warned of the terrible consequences of not heeding HaShem's word. The tochacha is preceded by a shorter, yet significant list of blessings that are bestowed upon us when we do perform the will of HaShem. There is a phraseology that is expressed almost identically in both the blessings and the curses. With regards to the blessings, it is written (28:2), "uva'u alecha kol haberachos ha'eileh vehisigucha," and these blessings will come upon you and overtake you. Regarding the curses, it is written (28:45), "uva'u alecha kol hakelalos ha'eileh urdafucha vehisigucha," and these curses will come upon you and chase you, and overtake you.

Although these pesukim seem extremely similar, R' Chayim Kanievsky, in Ta'ama D'kra, notes that when speaking of the blessings, vehisigucha is written withoutvuv. However, when speaking of the curses, it is written with a vuv. He offers a fascinating interpretation of this discrepancy.

In parshas Naso (Bemidbar 6:23) the kohanim are instructed as to how to bless the nation. The Torah commands "amor lahem," say unto them. Rashi points out that although the word "amor" could conceivably have been written without a vuvaleph-mem-reish, here it is specifically written with a vuv. The midrash (Bemidbar Rabbah 11:4) learns from this that the kohanim must not bless the nation hurriedly but rather carefully, intently and wholeheartedly. R' Chayim extrapolates from here that in general, a word written in its shortened form denotes hurry, whereas if it is written completely, it denotes a lack thereof. The meaning in our case, therefore, is that the blessings will come swiftly and rapidly. The curses, however, if they must come, will come slowly and gradually. An example of this is the slow progression with which tzara'as inflicts a person, rather than inflicting his body, clothes and house all at once. The purpose of this is to give a person the opportunity to react early and repent before the punishments grow and overtake him.

As one reader pointed out, this idea is found even more explicitly in the tochacha of Bechukosai where there is a clearly delineated progression associated with the curses whereas the blessings come all at once.

This theme may also explain the appearance of the word urdafucha, and they shall chase you, regarding the curses but not regarding the blessings. This refers to the "chasing" period when the retribution is only starting out gradually. At this point, the person is being chased to repent. It is only when he does not answer this call that the curses will overtake him. The blessings, conversely, will not chase you but simply come full force immediately.

This theme is quite pertinent to the month of Elul, in which this parsha always falls out. We are always given a window of opportunity, even an encouraging push, to repent for our sins before being punished fully. The month of Elul is prescribed for repentance and mending of ways so that we may achieve a favourable judgment for the coming year.

Have a good Shabbos.

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: Balancing the Shevatim 

Dikdukian: Tough Day at the Office

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