Weekly Reading Insights: 

Ki Tavo


From The Masters Of Kabbalah and Chumash (5 Books of Moses)

13th century - "RambaN" - Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman

14th century - "Bachya" - Rabbi Bachya ben Asher

16th century - "Alsheich" - Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Tsfat

17th century - "Shelah" - Rabbi Yeshaiya Horowitz

18th century - "Ohr HaChayim" - Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar


"And to make you high above all nations that he has made. In praise,…" [26:19]
All peoples of the earth should praise you for the fact that G-d will be near when ever you call upon Him.

"And in name…"
That your renown will go forth among the nations for His splendor which He has placed upon you, for you are exalted above all.

"And in glory…"
For you will be glorified over them by being able to do with them what ever you will desire; You shall decree a thing, and it shall be established for you, similar to what is stated, lest Israel vaunt themselves against Me, saying: Mine own hand has saved me.

"And that you may be a Holy People unto the Eternal"
To cleave to Him ultimately.
And by way of the Truth, (the mystic teachings of the Kabbala), "in praise" suggests that the it is the G-d of Israel they praise, and His Great Name is your G-d, and this is your Glory, similar to what is written, For You are the Glory of their strength; the Glory of Israel.


Rabbeinu Bachya

"All the nations of the earth will realize that the Lord's name is proclaimed over you and they will be afraid of you" [28:10].

Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrkanus in Menachot 35 explain the words, "the Lord's name is proclaimed over you," as a reference to the tefilin (phylacteries) on the head. This would account for the fact that the tefilin has two shin letters-a three stemmed one and a four-stemmed one-as part of its housing, an official requirement dating back to the times of Moses. It is as if our verse would tell us that when the nations of the world observe these two letters on our tefilin on our heads they will be seized by a sense of awe and develop fear of us.

Another mystical aspect of this verse is that when you read the alphabet in a reverse order i.e. exchanging letters such as aleph (the first) with tof (the last), or beit (the second) with shin (next-to-last), you will find that the letters of the great and holy four-letter Name of the Lord, are now mem-tzadi-peh-tzadi, whose combined numerical value is 300, the same as shin! During the year there are 300 days on which the tefilin are worn (after the Sabbath days and festival days have been deducted from the 365 days of the solar year).

If you will look still more deeply into the significance of this letter shin, you will find that it is an allusion to the Shechinah, whose first letter is shin, a manifestation of the presence of the Lord. The shin of the four "heads" is an allusion to the Shechinah which orbits (surrounds) the entire globe as well as outer space and which exerts its influence on the 4 "chayot" of the Divine entourage described both in the visions of Ezekiel and Isaiah.

The strap to which the tefilin of the head is tied, and which has a knot in the shape of the letter dalet is an allusion to the four kinds of wind which operate on earth from four directions guided by the Shechinah. These winds sometimes blow upwards and sometimes downwards. The straps (the part under the knot which looks like the letter dalet and which continue in a downward direction), indicate that the Divine input into this earth's domain occurs from above in a downward direction, i.e. emanates from the higher emanations chochma and binah.



"When you come to the land...you shall take the first of every fruit...you must place it in a basket...and go to the site G-d will choose...and say to the priest..." [26:1-3]

Anyone who reads the Mishnah in the tractate Bikkurim, detailing the pomp and ceremony which accompanied the transporting of the first fruit of the seven species which were personally carried to Jerusalem by their respective owners, including the King himself, must wonder why such tremendous effort was expended on such relatively worthless objects? Since our sages have said that the universe was created for the sake of these "first fruit" [breishit - "In the beginning" - or, more literally - "With (i.e. for) the first"], we can appreciate the manner in which this commandment was fulfilled. The universe itself is an expression of G-d's chessed, His loving kindness, for the universe was built as an expression of kindness, seeing that no one had done anything to deserve it as a reward for his contribution.

If G-d created it, because in the future, at some date, Jews would offer bikkurim, i.e. demonstrate appreciation of G-d's kindness and generosity, then this demonstrates the attribute of love and kindness of G-d who extended much credit to the human race at the time He created the world. To justify this act of kindness by G-d, we must display gratitude, not just whisper it in our prayers. This is especially so, since G-d has permitted us to treat this universe as if it were our own, with the proviso that we utter a benediction before enjoying it.

Taking such a universe for granted is, psychologically, very easy. To ensure that we never forget the tremendous debt of gratitude we owe the Creator, our sages of the Mishnah ordained all this pomp and ceremony in connection with the mitzvah of bikkurim.



"And it will be when you come into the land…" (Deut. 26:1)

This is interpreted in the Zohar (Midrash Hane-elam) as referring to the World to Come. Rashi also points out that the passage [recited when bringing offering of the first fruits of the Land] contains our thanks to G-d who, in His kindness, has already saved us at the beginning of our national history when we were merely a single family. We must learn from it to give thanks to G-d for all our achievements whenever they occur.

"This day the Lord your G-d commands you…." (Ibid. 26:16)

Rashi explains that the commandments should appear to us as if they had only been issued on that very day. Similarly, on the verse, "Keep silence, and hear O Israel, this day you have become a people to the L-rd your G-d" (Ibid. 27:9) Rashi writes, "You should consider each day as the one on which you entered into the covenant with G-d." This is a very important rule, which, when practiced, helps us to perform G-d's commandments with eagerness, as one performs a task newly assigned. It helps not to treat Torah as something that we are so familiar with that we fall into the habit of neglecting its demands.

"…because you did not serve the Lord you G-d in joy and with a glad heart when you enjoyed everything in abundance." (Ibid. 28:47)

The Arizal explains the above verse in a way similar to Rashi's perspective. G-d teaches us that performance of His commandments must be accompanied by a greater joy than the joy one feels for all the material blessings G-d has bestowed on one. It is not enough merely to serve the Lord and obey His commandments. We must do so joyfully.



Ohr HaChayim

"Look down from you holy abode from heaven, etc." [26:15]

Why did Moses repeat his reference to heaven by calling it both "holy abode" as well as "heaven?" If all Moses had wanted was to tell us that G-d's abode is holy place he should simply have written: "Look down from your holy abode heaven" without the additional word 'from.'

I believe that the Torah wants to make us privy to a secret, i.e. that G-d has prepared two distinct sources in the celestial spheres from which to exert His benevolent influence on mankind. One source is the reservoir of spiritual input into man, i.e. the source from which the holy souls are dispatched to inhabit our bodies. The other reservoir is that which provides us with physical goodness, i.e. the sustenance enabling His creatures to stay alive by means of food, etc.

In the language of the Zohar, the combination of these two are called zivug, coupling, pairing (as in marriage). This term is applicable whenever one of the two of the pair in question is active, i.e. provides the input, and the other is the recipient of that input.

According to our Kabbalists, the input of holy souls which used to originate from the celestial spheres has been interrupted ever since the day the Temple was destroyed, so that nowadays we receive input only from the source which provides the material goodness G-d has to offer. Moses, i.e. the Jewish farmer in our chapter, prays that G-d should provide the spiritual input, i.e. "from your holy abode." This input originates in the highest celestial region, hence the Torah describes that abode as holy.

Kabbalists have already revealed (Zohar volume two page 121) the difference between a level called kadosh, and the level in the celestial spheres called kodesh. The latter level is higher than the former as every intelligent student will appreciate.

The words "from the heavens," refer to the lower of the above-mentioned levels within the celestial spheres. The pairing, zivug, which results when the input originates only in the spheres called kadosh is inferior to that which results when the input from heaven includes input from the part known as kodesh. Concerning the first request, that G-d should provide input from the highest regions, the farmer asks that "Your people will be blessed," i.e. with sons and daughters whose souls originate in a holy abode. Concerning the heavenly input into our world of material blessings, i.e. food, the blessings originating in the sphere called heaven, the farmer asks the blessing for



Ramban - credits
Adapted from the 13th century classic by the illustrious scholar, philosopher and defender of the faith, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman-known as 'RAMBAN' or 'Nachmanides', a master kabbalist in his own right and a major link in the transmission of Jewish mysticism-based on the excellent annotated English translation, Nachmanides on the Torah, by Rabbi Dr. Charles B. Chavel

Bachya - credits
Selected with permission from the seven-volume English edition of The Torah Commentary of Rabbeinu Bachya, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk. Rabbi Bachya ben Asher [1255-1340] of Saragosa, Spain, was the outstanding pupil of Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (the "Rashba"), a main disciple of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (the "Ramban"). Several books have been written about the Kabballah-based portions of R. Bachya's commentary.

Alsheich - credits
Adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech, the "Preacher of Zefat" on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

Shelah - credits
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz was born in Prague around the year 1565. He served as Rabbi of Cracow and other congregations before he was appointed as the Rabbi of the community of Frankfurt on Main in the year 1610. In 1916, Rabbi Horowitz moved to Prague where he became the Chief Rabbi of the city. He moved to Eretz Yisrael about 1621. He was rabbi in Jerusalem and in Tiberias, where he died in or about 1630. In addition to his magnus opus, Shenei Luchot HaBrit, he also compiled an edition of the prayer-book with a comprehensive commentary. Many of his innovations, including his formulation of the Kol Nidrei prayer, have become part and parcel of the Ashkenazi Siddur.

Ohr HaChayim - credits
Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco, on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only to his Torah commentary.

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