Ki Savo – Blessed Curses

The seventh Perek in Masechta Sotah (32a) begins with a Mishnah describing the different things we are allowed to say in any language; “Krias Shema, Tefillah, Birchas HaMazon, an Oath of testimony…” and the things that must be said in Hebrew, in any other language we would not have fulfilled whatever obligation it may be, the examples here are, “The Bikkurim reading, Chalitza, The Blessings and The Curses…” What blessings and curses are we talking about? The Mishnah is referring to the Blessings and Curses that Klal Yisrael heard on Har Gerizim and Har Eival. In this week’s Parsha Moshe tells the Jewish people that when they cross over the Jordan River six shevatim should stand on Har Gerizim and six on Har Eival. There they would hear the different curses and blessings that a person receives if they keep or do not keep the Torah. After that we were commanded to build an altar on Har Eival, coat it in plaster and write the entire torah in seventy different languages upon it. Har Eival was where we heard the curses and Har Gerizim was where we heard the blessings. The Naos Desha asks, why we were commanded to build a Mizbeach, rejoice and write the Torah on Har Eival if that is the mountain where we received the curses, it makes so much more sense for that to happen on Har Gerizim where we were blessed instead. 

The answer is in Rashis explanation of the pasuk, “Moshe and the elders commanded the Jewish Nation saying, ‘Keep all of the commandments…”(27:1) Rashi says that “Keep all of the commandments” is “an expression of the present – in French, Gardante” Rashi is saying that the word “Shamor – guard, keep” is not a command rather it is something that will happen on that day, and continue perpetually. Not a command but a statement. Rashi is saying everyday will be a new opportunity to enter the covenant of Hashem. There are twelve curses, eleven focusing on one particular Mitzvah, and one for the rest of the Torah, “Cursed be the one who does not uphold the words of the Torah and observe them… and then say Amen” (27:26) Each curse ending in Amen is like accepting an oath, similar to a Sotah who accepts upon herself a curse of death if she goes against her oath that she was faithful to her husband. The connection here is that each shevet in saying amen was accepting that if there was something indeed lacking in their Avodas Hashem Moshe would display the shortfall to the shevet, allowing them to fix the problem. Which is why only the curses are brought down in this Parsha, because here the shevatim took an oath to “keep all of the commandments” and whatever they weren’t doing right Moshe would show them a way to fix it – for the future, for every new day when we go back to the covenant of Hashem. It’s like a person who has an illness, because of their underlying illness if they must avoid “fruit” it can be tremendously negative on their health yet a person who is healthy can have plenty of “fruit” without any adverse effects. It is the same spiritually; a person who is spiritually unhealthy can be damaged greatly by even a small amount of sin – of “fruit” –  and become even more ill. Yet someone who is spiritually healthy knows not to indulge in “fruit” and if they have too much they will do their best to refrain from making a mistake again and come to complete Teshuvah. A person who is spiritually weak may learn a lot and daven well but if he ever encounters sin he may become greatly damaged beyond repair. Therefore Moshe gathered all of Klal Yisrael in this week’s Parsha by having the shevatim take an oath that they will “keep all of the commandments” and if they were to then go against the Torah Moshe could point out to them the flaws before the curses took effect, allowing Klal Yisrael to stay spiritually healthy. Because we had such an opportunity of healing through the receiving of the curses Har Eival was truly a place for Simcha, for rejoicing, because there we began to accept the Torah again and again and again, and there on Har Eival we wrote the Torah in all the languages to show that we are spiritually healthy, that no “fruit” of sin from the nations in the world around us could bring us down because each day we return to the covenant of Hashem in holiness.

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