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Parshas Ki Savo - Torah: The Bedrock of our Past, Present & Future       20 Elul 5782

09/16/2022 09:06:34 AM


Ninety-nine years ago, on the 3rd of Elul, 5683, corresponding to August 15th, 1923, the first Knessiah Gedolah took place in Vienna/Wein or Vien. It was a watershed event in the annals of Jewish Orthodoxy. This was the first gathering of world Torah leaders in the in the 20th Century,  united in the struggle against secular assimilationist movements that were threatening the survival of Torah Jewry. In 2015 the Orthodox community worldwide had been amazed and elated by the discovery of a rare short film containing images of numerous gedolei Yisroel (great Orthodox Jewish leaders) across the spectrum, including Roshei Yeshivos, Chassidic Rebbes and Torah luminaries. And among them was a crystal clear presence of the saintly Chofetz Chaim, Rav Yisroel Meir Kagan z”l.  

Hundreds of people gathered around the inn where the Chofetz Chaim was staying. Everyone came to catch a glimpse of the Gadol Hador, the greatest Rabbi of the generation. Remember, this was prior to twitter and any social media; most people didn’t even know what he looked like. Many in the crowd waited for the opportunity to meet the Chofetz Chaim in person and ask for a bracha from this great Tzadik. When people arrived to seek a blessing, the Chofetz Chaim replied, “I am not a Rebbe” meaning he was not among the Chasidic masters and Kabbalists who were expected to give brachos. Nevertheless, the people would not relent. They pushed the Chofetz Chaim to the point where he had no choice but to honor their request and began blessing them. Among the visitors were a man and his young son who the Chofetz Chaim did not recognize. This occurred around the time of Parshas Ki Savo. The Chofetz Chaim said to the man, “I am not sure why you are asking to receive a bracha from me. If you send your son to a yeshiva, then you don’t need my blessing because you’ve already been pre-blessed by six hundred thousand Jews who stood on top at the mountains of Greizim and Eival. The Gemara Sotah 36 describes six tribes on Har Gereizim and six tribes on Har Eival and the Kohanim, Leviim, and the Aron HaKodesh where the Shechina - God’s presence - rested was below in the middle. It was there that everyone who was present heard the words "ברוך אשר יקים את דברי התורה הזאת"   “Blessed is the one who fulfills and upholds the words of the Torah.” But if you are going to send your son only for a secular education, then I cannot give you a bracha.” He concluded in Yiddish by saying, “I am not a light scratcher when it comes to tochachah/ rebuke.” The father then began to tremble and his knees began to shake, asking himself, ”How did the Chofetz Chaim know to say this to me!”

There is a saying of the Rabbis: “if I don't learn Torah for one day, the Torah leaves me for two days.” I felt this lesson when writing this week’s message, having missed writing a message last week. Sometimes the lack of something good is the curse; the inverse is also true. Although I quoted above that blessing will come from those who uphold and disseminate Torah, that quote is, in fact, derived from the negative perspective. The Torah in this week’s Parshas Ki Savo says in Devarim 27:26 "ארור אשר לא יקים את דברי התורה הזאת לעשות אותם, ואמר כל העם אמן"  “Cursed is he who does not uphold and keep this entire Torah. All the people shall say, Amen.” The Ramba”n has a very scary interpretation on this. Nachmanidies writes that included in this curse of ‘not upholding the Torah’ are all the people who had the ability, the strength, and the wherewithal to do things, to take action so as to uphold and fulfill Torah and Mitzvos but did not do it! The Ramba”n explains the words אשר לא יקים  who does not uphold refers to those who do not try to put forth the effort to solidify and strengthen Torah learning and observance in their communities. Consistent with this thought, the Gemara Sotah 7:4 in the (Jerusalem Talmud) explains the words: “someone who does not uphold” indicates the Torah will otherwise fall. The Gemara asks, "Is it really possible for the Torah to fall?”  Rav Assi, in the name of Rebbi Tanchum Bar Chiya, explains that even if a person learns and teaches, observes, and performs yet still remains doubt regarding if he could strengthen Torah and did not, that person will be included in the category of those who will be cursed.

Learning Torah and even being a fully observant Jew is not what everyone grows to become. Nevertheless, everyone could be blessed by fully supporting Toras Emes, -a true form of Torah that supports the legacy of all that will help maintain, deepen and ultimately guarantee the survival of the Jewish people. Think about the Yisachar/Zevulun partnership of supporting Torah: the business partner receives the same reward as the person who is doing the actual learning. If someone learns but does not support, that person will fall into the cursed category. On the other hand, someone who does not learn but supports Torah will be included in the blessing.

The Torah is the blueprint Hashem used to create the world. Chaza”l teach us that Hashem looked into the Torah and created the world. As Rosh Hashana approaches, let’s remind ourselves that the beginning of the world and its creation are ongoing.  Hashem’s creation of our world, of our lives,  goes hand-in-hand with our learning – at all levels - and with our embracing the Torah. Rosh Hashana is all about everything we generally practice: apples and honey, special Amida, Shofar blowing, looking towards forgiveness. This is all underscored by the realization that it is the strengthening of the Torah which is the single most important issue with which each of us must enter the new year.  As the great Reb Yisrael Meir HaKohein sternly declared, ”If we want to gain the blessings we daven to receive,  they will come through upholding true Torah values and through the proliferation of Torah learning in our own homes and families and throughout our community.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Fri, July 19 2024 13 Tammuz 5784