August 24, 2002 - 5762
Prepared by Rabbi Daniel M. Horwitz
Ohev Sholom, Prairie Village, Kansas
Annual Cycle: Deut. 26:1-29:8; Hertz, p. 859; Etz Hayim, p. 1140
Triennial Cycle I:; Hertz, Deut. 26:1-27:10; Etz Hayim, p. 1140
Haftarah: Isaiah 60:1-22; Hertz, p. 874; Etz Hayim, p. 1160
This Shabbat’s Torah Portion Summary
(26:1-15) The bringing of the first fruits to the priests in the Temple; the declaration that all the tithes have been paid, and a prayer for God's blessing.
(26:16-19) Conclusion of the Deuteronomic Code, with a charge to keep all the mitzvot.
(27:1-10) Instructions to set up large stones at Mt. Ebal, on which all the words of the Torah were to be written. Another charge to obey God and keep His mitzvot.
(27:11-16) The covenant ritual at Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal.
(28:1-14) The blessings for keeping the mitzvot, the terms of the covenant.
(28:15-69) The tokhehah, or rebuke: the list of curses that will befall those who break the covenant.
(29:1-8) Review of good things God did for Israel since the Exodus.
This Shabbat's Theme: "Comings and Goings"
Blessed shall you be in your comings and blessed shall you be in your goings. (Deut. 28:6)
- Rav said: "Blessed shall you be in your comings" - this means, when you come in from the road, may your wife be available to you for marital relations (and not be in her menstrual period). "Blessed shall you be in your goings" - this means, may those who go out from your loins be like you.
Rabbi Yochanan said: "Blessed shall you be in your comings, and blessed shall you be in your goings" - may your departure from the world be like your entry into the world; just as you came into the world without sin, so may you depart from it without sin. (Talmud, Baba Metzia 107a)
- Rabbi Yehudah bar Simon said: This verse is speaking of Moses. For when Moses came into the world, he brought near those who were distant - specifically, Pharaoh's daughter. And when he left the world, he brought near those who were distant, as we see he said concerning Reuben (who was rejected by his father): "May Reuben live and not die." (Deut. 33:6) Another interpretation: the verse refers to one's trade. (Perhaps meaning that if your wares are good when you bring them in for sale, you then will leave with success. (Midrash Deuteronomy Rabbah 7:5)
- "Blessed shall you be in your comings" - this means, may blessings be placed upon you when you come into your father-in-law's house, as Isaac blessed Jacob (before going to Laban's home): "May El Shaddai bless you, make you fertile and numerous..." (Gen. 28:3). "Blessed shall you be in your goings" - this means, may blessings be placed upon you when you go forth from your father-in-law's house (as happened when Jacob left Laban's home). (Midrash, Genesis 82:4)
- One who takes a wife out of lust, of him Scripture says: "They shall eat, but not be sated; they shall swill, but not be satisfied." (Hosea 4:10) One who takes a wife in order to improve his position, in the end his standing will be reduced from that family, and his seed after him excluded. But one who takes a wife for the sake of Heaven, of him Scripture says: "Blessed shall you be in your comings, and blessed shall you be in your goings." (Tanna D'Bei Eliyahu Zuta 16:14)
"Sparks" for Discussion:
What are the greatest blessings in life? In the commentary above we see a broad sweep of life's choicest blessings. Marital life is mentioned, children and family, one's trade... and also, being "without sin", or, like Moses, possessing the ability to bring people together. We are also cognizant that there is a time when these words refer not only to life but to death. Recall that a very similar verse is recited at Jewish funerals: "The Lord will guard your going forth and your coming in now and forever." (Psalms 121:8)
What would you want people to say or think about you "when you are going forth forever"?
Discussion Theme Two: "The Attack of the Crickets"
The cricket shall take over all the trees and produce of your land (Deut 28:42)
- The word "tz'latzal" (translated above as "cricket") refers to the locust, which will strip the fruit (Rashi). Note that the locust is one of the 10 plagues in Egypt. If that were the case, that it means locust, it should have been connected with another verse (v. 38) which directly mentions the locust. Rather, it is more likely that the word does not mean locust but instead refers to a hostile army and the Torah is trying to convey the following: "Though you beget sons and daughters, they shall not remain with you" to work for you and to sustain your old age, "for they shall go into captivity" before the enemy. And "...all the trees and produce of your land" will be taken by an army (not locusts). How do we know that the word "tz'latzal" refers to an army? We see it referred to in the phrases from Psalm 150, "tziltz'lei shama" and "tziltz'lei t'ruah", resounding and loud-clashing cymbals, associated with warring armies. (Nachmanides, 13th c.)
- The "tz'latzal" is indeed a swarm of locusts, and it is called this for two possible reasons. One is that they are so numerous that they put the sun into shade (tzel). The other is because they make such a deafening noise" (as per note B above - clashing cymbals). (Samson Raphael Hirsch. 19th c. Germany)
"Sparks" for Discussion:
What sometimes seems to be small and harmless (ie. A cricket), even pleasant to see and hear ("Jiminy Cricket"), may be as destructive as an army or any other invasive force. Similarly, we may allow ourselves small and harmless habits, which ultimately can plague and darken our lives.
At this time of year, as we recall our misdeeds, let us try to remember the little slights and harms that we did to others. They may seem inconsequential to us (crickets) but may not be so to others who may have been deeply hurt (as with a "clashing army").