KI TAVO – RABBI MOSHE D. LICHTMAN

At the beginning of the parashah, the great Torah Sage, Rabbi Chayim ben Atar (the “Or HaChayim HaKadosh”) teaches that the true place of happiness for a Jew is only in Eretz Yisrael.

KI TAVO

by Rabbi Moshe D. Lichtman. [https://toratzion.com/]


TRUE HAPPINESS

A recurring theme in this week’s parashah is simcha – happiness. In the opening section,
which deals with bikurim (first fruits), the Torah states, – You shall rejoice in all the good
that the Lord, your God, has given you and your household (26:11). In the next section,
dealing with Vidui Ma’asrot (Confession of the Tithes), Rashi comments on the verse – I
have done according to all that You have commanded me (26:14): “I have rejoiced and made
others rejoice in it [the tithes].” Two sections later, when Moshe tells the People of Israel
what to do when they cross the Jordan River, the verse states, – You shall slaughter peace
offerings and eat there, and you shall rejoice before the Lord, your God (27:7). Finally, after
thirty-two verses of admonition (tochachah), the Torah reveals why the Jews will be punished
so severely if they do not follow the ways of HaShem: – Because you did not serve the Lord,
your God, with joy and goodness of heart, when everything was abundant (28:47).

Undoubtedly, serving HaShem joyfully is of paramount importance. But, like so many
other things in this world, there is a time and a place for everything. I am sure that we can all
think of examples of times when rejoicing is inappropriate. At the beginning of the parashah,
R. Chayim ben Atar (the “Or HaChayim HaKadosh”) teaches that there are also places where
rejoicing is inappropriate (or more accurately, there is only one place where rejoicing is
appropriate). The opening verse states, – It shall be (והיה) when you enter the Land that the
Lord, your God, gives you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it (26:1). The Or
HaChayim comments:
[The Torah] used the word והיה, which connotes happiness, to suggest that one should
only rejoice in dwelling in the Land, as [King David] said, [When the Lord will return
the captivity of Zion, we will be like dreamers.] Then our mouths will fill with
laughter… (Tehillim 126:1-2).
By the way, the Or HaChayim practiced what he preached and made aliyah at the age of
45. Unfortunately, he died less than two years later.

The author of Sefer Chareidim concurs with the Or HaChayim and elaborates on this idea.
The verse begins with the word והיה, one of the twelve combinations of the Holy Name,
to hint to the fact that one who dwells in Eretz Yisrael clings to God. The opposite is
true of a Jew who dwells in Chutz LaAretz; he is like one who has no God. This
combination also hints to Chazal’s statement “Wherever it says והיה, it implies
happiness.” The Ramban includes the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael in his
enumeration of the 613. Every moment a person dwells in Eretz Yisrael, he fulfills this
mitzvah. And, it is well known that the main reward for the mitzvah is [received] for the
great joy it, as it says, – Because you did not serve the Lord,your God, with joy. Thus, one who dwells in Eretz Yisrael must constantly be happy
about his perpetual mitzvah, because of his love for it. [However], one must also be
filled with fear and trepidation… (See the entire passage in Sefer Chareidim, chap. 59.)
This concept may also have a halachic ramification. In Chutz LaAretz, Birkat Kohanim
(the Priestly Blessing) is customarily recited only on holidays. The Rama explains that this is
because people are joyous on the holidays, and joy is a prerequisite for this blessing
(Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 128:44). Taking this one step further, some say that this is
why Birkat Kohanim is recited every day in Eretz Yisrael: because true joy is felt on a daily
basis in God’s Chosen Land.
Most people spend their entire lives searching for true happiness. The first word in this
week’s parashah teaches us that many Jews may very well be looking for it in the wrong
place.

DON’T GET TOO COMFORTABLE

The first verse in this week’s parashah states, – It shall be when you enter the Land that
the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it (26:1). The
Sifrei comments, “Perform the mitzvah mentioned in this context [apparently bikurim], in
reward for which you will enter the Land.” The Chatam Sofer (cited in R. Ya’akov Filber’s
Chemdat Yamim) asks an obvious question on this Midrash: Seemingly, it is out of order, for
the obligation to bring bikurim begins only after the Jews take possession of and dwell in the
Land. How, then, can the Midrash say that the fulfillment of bikurim will enable us to
acquire the Land?
Before answering this question, the Chatam Sofer asks another one: Why do we say in
Grace After Meals, “We thank You, Lord our God, for giving our forefathers an inheritance
of a desirable, good, and spacious Land; and for taking us… out of the land of Egypt”? This,
too, seems to be out of order, for God first took us out of Egypt and only then gave us Eretz
Yisrael!
The Chatam Sofer explains: Even though our forefathers roamed from nation to nation,
their hearts and thoughts were always on the Land of their inheritance. When the children of
Ya’akov descended to Egypt, they told Pharaoh, – We have come to sojourn (לגור) in the
land (BeReishit 47:4), but not to settle there. Indeed, as long as they maintained this attitude,
they were shielded from Pharaoh’s harsh decrees. However, immediately after Yosef and his
brothers died, and The Children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and
multiplied, and grew exceedingly mighty… (Shemot 1:7), A new king arose over Egypt (ibid.
1:8) and said, Let us deal wisely with them (ibid. 1:10).
This, continues the Chatam Sofer, is borne out in the proclamation one makes when
offering bikurim to the kohen: – An Aramean [attempted to] destroy my father, and he

[Ya’akov] descended to Egypt and sojourned (ויגר) there, few in number (26:5). That is, as
long as the Jews were few in number, they considered themselves sojourners in Egypt.
However, when they became a great, mighty, and populous nation (ibid.), The Egyptians
mistreated and afflicted us, and they placed hard work upon us (ibid. 26:6).
In other words, according to the Chatam Sofer, as long as the Jews are faithful to Eretz
Yisrael, they are safe in exile. But as soon as they renounce their ties to the Land, making the
Diaspora their permanent home, troubles start.
This answers the two questions posed above. Our declaration in Grace after Meals means
as follows: “We thank You, Lord our God, for giving our forefathers” – i.e., those who
originally went down to Egypt – “an inheritance of a desirable… Land.” And, by merit of
their loyalty to this Land, “You took us out of Egypt.”
We can understand the first verse of this week’s parashah in a similar vein: When you
enter the Land that the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance – that is, even before you
enter the Land, you should see it as your inheritance. Then, you will be privileged to possess
it and dwell in it. Thus, the Sifrei states, “[If you] perform the mitzvah mentioned in this
context” – that is, if you see Eretz Yisrael as your inheritance even before you enter the Land
– “in reward for that you will enter the Land.”
This idea of the Chatam Sofer – that when we neglect Eretz Yisrael we endanger our lives
in the lands of exile – is alluded to, in a slightly different manner, in the end of the parashah.
After fifty verses of admonition (tochachah) the Torah states, – The Lord will scatter you
among all the nations, from the end of the earth to the end of the earth, and there you will
serve other gods… And among those nations you will not be tranquil; there will be no rest
for the sole of your foot (28:64-65). Chazal comment on this:
– And he [Noach] sent out the dove… but the dove did not find rest (BeReishit 8:8-
9): The dove represents the Jewish people. Just as the dove did not find rest for the
sole of her foot, so too, Israel will find no rest in exile, as it says, – There will be no
rest for the sole of your foot. And, just as the dove returned to the ark, so too, Israel
will eventually return to its Land from exile because of the yoke of the nations…
(Midrash Aggadah, Noach 8:11)
Another Midrash states:
And the dove did not find rest: Yehudah bar Nachman said in the name of R.
Shimon, “Had she found rest, she would not have returned.” Similarly, – She
[Israel] dwelled among the nations, but found no rest (Eichah 1:3): Had she found
rest, she would not have returned. Similarly, – And among those nations you will
not be tranquil; there will be no rest for the sole of your foot: Had they found rest,
they would not have returned (BeReishit Rabbah 33:8).
The Torah Temimah (Eichah 1:62) comments:

She dwelled complacently among the nations and did not contemplate returning to
Eretz Yisrael. She failed, however, because she did not find rest. Behold, the clear
outlook (hashkafah) of this dictum is very dear, and its echo resounds in every
generation, to this very day.

Let us hope and pray that the Jews who currently dwell peacefully in the Diaspora will
learn from history and return home of their own volition, not as a result of unpleasant,
external pressures.

ADDITIONAL REFERENCES

 You shall take of the first of all the fruit of the ground that you will bring from your Land
that the Lord your God gives you and put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place that the
Lord your God will choose to rest His name there. You shall come to the priest (kohen) who
will be in those days, and you shall say to him, “I profess today to the Lord your God that I
have come to the Land that the Lord swore to our forefathers to give us” (26:2-3).
OF THE FIRST OF ALL THE FRUIT OF THE GROUND THAT YOU WILL BRING FROM YOUR LAND: the
choicest of its fruit… namely, the seven species through which Eretz Yisrael is praised,
as our tradition states. (Sforno; see also Rashi)

AND YOU SHALL SAY TO HIM: This brief declaration is made to the kohen before the kohen
lays down the bikurim, while the longer declaration, said after he lays it down (v. 5-10),
is made in HaShem’s presence. [The Torah] commanded [us] to speak to the kohen
before speaking to HaShem because the declaration to the kohen expresses the
underlying reason for the bikurim offering. If the one who brings [the bikurim] does not
know the purpose of the mitzvah, his offering will be deficient, and he will appear
ungrateful. For, [a Jew] brings a gift – a few fruits of the ground – to the House of
HaShem [to thank Him] for the great kindness He has done for the nation as a whole and
for the particular kindness He has done for him by giving him a portion in a Land
flowing with milk and honey. Moreover, the declaration made before HaShem will be
inapprehensible [if not preceded by the one made before the kohen], for after saying, –
A Land flowing with milk and honey (v. 9), [the one who brings the bikurim] praises
himself, saying, – And now, behold, I have brought the first fruit of the ground (v. 10).
What importance does fruit of the ground have in a Land flowing with milk and honey?
Therefore, he first declares that the reason for bringing bikurim is to publicize the fact
that HaShem gave us the Land as a gift, in fulfillment of the promise He made to the
Patriarchs. Bikurim is a testimony to the fact that the Land belongs to HaShem, and He
gave it to [the Jewish people, to live there] as tenants. Therefore, one brings bikurim to
the House of God, as a land tenant customarily brings of the first grains to his landlord.

This is the meaning of [Chazal’s] statement in the Sifrei, “And you shall say to him –
that you are not an ingrate.” That is, why does [the Jew] make his declaration to the
kohen before making one to HaShem? [The answer is], in order to make the kohen
realize that he [the Jew] knows the rationale behind the mitzvah – that [bikurim] is not an
offering or a gift to God for His kindness. Rather, it is a way to publicize the fact that
HaShem gave us the Land as a gift… (Malbim)

 The Lord took us out of Egypt… and He brought us to this place, and He gave us this Land,
a Land flowing with milk and honey (26:8-9).
This is a good place to mention something I heard from the holy mouth of our brilliant
and pious master, R. Meir Shapiro zt”l, av beit din and rosh yeshiva of Lublin: Milk
comes from blood, as Chazal state, “[Menstrual] blood becomes turbid and turns into
milk [inside the woman or animal’s body]” (Bechorot 6b). [Alternatively, they consider
milk] like a limb from a living creature (ibid.). [Nonetheless, milk is kosher.]
Similarly, bee honey is the product of a flying insect, but the Torah permitted it.
Moreover, honey naturally transforms bee legs (and other parts of its flesh) that are
mixed with it into honey (Rabbeinu Yonah, quoted by the Rosh, Berachot 6:35).
The same is true, [explained R. Meir Shapiro], of the Holy Land: it is capable of
turning wicked people into righteous ones (the choice, however, is man’s…). This
concurs with Chazal’s statement “Whoever dwells in Eretz Yisrael is like one who has a
God” (Ketuvot 110b). The Torah alludes to this [attribute] in the title it [often] gives to
Eretz Yisrael: “A Land flowing with milk and honey” – things that change from
prohibited [foods] to permissible ones… Thus, this title has a spiritual secret, as well.
(Oznayim LaTorah)

 Look down from Your holy abode, from the heavens, and bless Your people Israel and the
Land that You gave us, as You swore to our forefathers, a Land flowing with milk and
honey (26:15).
Look down from Your holy abode, from the heavens: We have done what You decreed
upon us; You, too, fulfill what you promised us. [That is], Look down from Your holy
abode, from the heavens, and bless Your people Israel – with sons and daughters. And
the Land that You gave us – [bless it] with dew, rain, and animal offspring. As You
swore to our forefathers, a Land flowing with milk and honey – (i.e., bless the Land that it be a
Land flowing with milk and honey), so that You may infuse the fruits with [good] taste. (That
is, the fruits should be fat, juicy, and good tasting, for the fatter the Land, the better taste its fruits have. The
Tosefta adds: “Flowing with milk and honey – this teaches that [the separation of the] tithes infuses the fruit
[of the Land] with taste, aroma, fatness, and nutrition [lit., grain].” That is to say, in merit of [observing the

laws of] tithes, rain and dew fall, and the dew infuses the fruit with taste, fatness, and the power of
sustenance.) (Ma’aser Sheni, chap. 5, Mishnah 13, with comments from R. Pinchas
Kehati)

 It shall be on the day that you cross over the Jordan to the Land that the Lord your God
gives you, you shall set up great stones and cover them with plaster. You shall write on them
all the words of this Torah, when you cross over, so that you may come to the Land that the
Lord your God gives you, a Land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord God of your
forefathers spoke concerning you (27:2-3).
The Ramban interprets [these verses as follows]… Engrave the words of the Torah on
the stones, so that all of you will recognize that you are entering the Land in order to
keep the Torah. This is why you have a right to the Land that you conquer. The author
of Kedushat Levi, [R. Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev], writes that this explains why
[HaShem commanded the Jews] to engrave the Torah on these stones in seventy
languages, as Chazal say, “ – Well explained (v. 9): in seventy languages.” The Torah
serves as a document based on which the Land was given [to us]. Therefore, the Torah
was written in seventy languages, so that all inhabitants of the world shall understand
that the Land belongs to the Jews and no one else. After all, Israel is the only nation that
received the Torah. (Hagut BeParshi’ot HaTorah, Y. Nachshoni, vol. 2, p. 809)
 The Lord will command the blessing for you in your storehouses and in all your endeavors;
and He will bless you in the Land that the Lord your God gives you (28:8).
THE LORD WILL COMMAND… Now [the Torah promises] blessing for the merchants who
have storehouses outside the country. However, the blessing will come IN THE LAND THAT
THE LORD YOUR GOD GIVES YOU. This can be compared to Chazal’s teaching regarding
prayer – that one who prays outside the Land must face Eretz Yisrael. So too, [material]
blessing in Chutz LaAretz comes from HaShem’s blessing in Eretz Yisrael. (Ha’amek
Davar)

 The Lord will give you abundant goodness, in the fruit of your womb, in the fruit of your
cattle, and in the fruit of your ground, on the Land that the Lord swore to your forefathers to
give you (28:11).
THAT THE LORD SWORE TO YOUR FOREFATHERS TO GIVE YOU: Here, the Torah adds the issue
of the oath [that God made to the Patriarchs], which was not mentioned above, in the
verse The Lord will command the blessing… (v. 8). This alludes to the fact that the Jews
will receive greater blessings in Eretz Yisrael than on the other side of the Jordan.
There, the blessings will affect only hidden things, since it is not included in [the

territories] promised to the Patriarchs. Here [in Eretz Yisrael], however, there will be an
advantage: the blessings will affect even discernable things, as it says, on the Land. For
[the Torah] already blessed us, [saying], – The Lord will remove from you all maladies
(7:15), referring to the Evil Eye. This advantage will be for the Land that the Lord
swore to your forefathers to give you. The reason being: all other lands are given over to
angelic ministers, who are in charge of them, while the eyes of HaShem our God are
[constantly] upon Eretz Yisrael, as elucidated in Parashat Eikev (11:12). (Yalkut MeAm
Lo’ez)

 The Lord will make the plague cleave to you, until it consumes you from upon the Land to
which you come to possess it (28:21).
Know that these admonitions of cursing, confusion, worry, plague (v. 20-21), [the
destruction of] the trees and the fruit of the land (v. 42), and all the other admonitions,
are [applicable only] until it consumes you from upon the Land to which you come to
possess it. After the exile begins, however, HaShem curses [the Jews] only that they will
serve other gods, of wood and stone (v. 36)… But after we are already in exile in the
lands of our enemies, our handiwork, our cattle, our flocks of sheep, our vineyards, our
olive trees, and our fields will not be cursed. Rather, we will dwell in these lands like, or
even better than, the rest of the nations, for HaShem has mercy on us. We sojourn in
exile with the promise He made to us: But despite all this, when they are in the lands of
their enemies, I will not despise them nor will I reject them to obliterate them, to break
My covenant with them, for I am the Lord their God (VaYikra 26:44). In Parashat
BeChukotai, I already explained the secret of this covenant, that it refers to our present
exile at the hands of the fourth beast [i.e., Rome; cf. Daniel 7:1-8]. Afterwards, God
promises to redeem us from this exile. (Ramban, v. 42)
How are we to relate to this statement of the Ramban after the unspeakable horrors of the
Holocaust? I will let someone who experienced these horrors first hand (and unfortunately
died Al Kiddush HaShem) answer this question:
Thus, the Holy One Blessed be He made a special covenant with us and promised that
we would live peacefully and comfortably during our exile in the lands of the nations,
just like the inhabitants of the land and perhaps even better than them. Now, however,
the Gentiles have taken away our very right to live; they have deprived us of all means
of sustenance; they have broken our staff of bread (cf. VaYikra 26:26). Therefore, it is
clear that the Holy One blessed be He has removed this “promise of exile.” It is as if
He is telling us explicitly, “My children, I do not want you to remain in the lands of
exile anymore. Therefore, I will no longer protect your stay in the Diaspora. Rise up,

go to your mother’s bosom, and return to the Land of your forefathers.” (Rav Y. S.
Teichtal, Eim HaBanim Semeichah, p. 223)

 The Lord will lead you and your king… to a nation that neither you nor your forefathers
knew; and there you will serve other gods, of wood and stone (28:36).
See VaEtchanan, “Foreign Labor.”

 He [your enemy] will besiege you in all your gates, until your high and fortified walls in
which you trusted will come down, throughout your Land; and he will besiege you in all your
gates, throughout your Land, which the Lord your God has given you (28:52).
HE WILL BESIEGE YOU: not that [your enemy] will kill you, God forbid. Rather, [he will
besiege you] until your walls come down, because you put your trust in them, instead
of trusting HaShem. AND HE WILL BESIEGE YOU: not for the purpose of taking away your
Land. Rather, He will [merely] besiege you. [And] even though he will besiege you,
[nonetheless] in all your gates, throughout your Land – they are still your gates and it
is still your Land. For once [God] gave them to you, He will not take them back. God
is not a man that He should deceive (BeMidbar 23:19). This is the meaning of [the end
of the verse] which the Lord your God has given you – you, not them. (Siftei Kohen by
R. Mordechai HaKohen)

 You will be plucked from upon the Land into which you come to possess it (28:63).
When the British government started giving different interpretations to the Balfour
Declaration and the formulation of its mandate [over “Palestine”], R. Yosef Chayim
Sonnenfeld said: “This is a distinct curse in the Admonition, You will be plucked
(ונסחתם) from upon the Land into which you come to possess it. [That is], through
various ‘formulations’ (נוסחאות), they try to take you away from the Land that is your
heritage.” (Itturei Torah, vol. 6, p. 170)

 The Lord will scatter you among all the nations, from the end of the earth to the end of the
earth, and there you will serve other gods, which neither you nor your forefathers knew,
[gods of] wood and stone (28:64).
See VaEtchanan, “Foreign Labor.”

 The Lord will give you there an angry heart, unfulfilled yearning, and languishing of soul
(28:65).
When Ulla went up to Eretz Yisrael, two men from Chuzai accompanied him. [At one
point] one of them arose and killed his friend. [The murderer] said to Ulla, “Did I do

well?” [Ulla] replied, “Yes; go and reveal the [severed] throat [of your victim].” (Rashi:
“[Ulla] was afraid to say that [the murderer] acted improperly, lest he kill him [as well].”) When [Ulla
finally] came before R. Yochanan [in Eretz Yisrael], he said to him, “Perhaps, God
forbid, I encouraged a sinner?” [R. Yochanan] answered, “[Don’t worry], you saved
your life.” [In any event], R. Yochanan was astounded (that the man from Chuzai became so
angry that he killed his friend in Eretz Yisrael – Rashi). “Let us see,” [said R. Yochanan], “The
verse says, The Lord will give you there an angry heart – that is, in Babylonia!” [Ulla]
replied, “At that time, [when the murder took place], we had not yet crossed over the
Jordan River [into Eretz Yisrael].” (Nedarim 22a)
The Maharsha explains: “The Evil Inclination rules in Chutz LaAretz more than it does in
Eretz Yisrael, and anger is one of the attributes of the Evil Inclination.”
For a more in-depth discussion of this Gemara and how it relates to our times, see Michtav
MeEliyahu, vol. 3, pp. 193-96.

 

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