Parashas Ki Savo
A New Delight To The Eyes
Rabbi David Katz
Parashas Ki Savo makes no ambiguous moves from its opening sequences all the way through to its closing words, in the Torah’s most gripping challenge yet, to explain the saga of the Ger. With its uncompromising style, the reader is challenged each step of the way, to see just how willing to accept the truth the potential Ger advocate truly is. Along the journey we will face all of the core issues that comprise not just a trivial perspective of the Ger, but the core essence of everyday life; a life that to one’s surprise, may be more entirely filled with mysterious Gerim than he ever imagined! Topics such as conversion, meaning of life, truth to exile/redemption ratios, social facts, Israeli demographic DNA, and more – come to light in this Parasha within an astoundingly bright contrast to all preconceived notions and accepted levels of understanding. The Parasha’s closing message says it best, when it states that “today Hashem has opened your eyes…”, and indeed he has, for in the Parasha all are commanded to Fear His Honored Name; ultra - perspective of the Ger will do just that. Hashem calls for a very clear message: to be a member of a Godly society, one must be able to grasp and handle the Truth; anything short of His mission statement is deemed a lack of success. The Parasha will always be there for anyone who desires to remember to see it for what it is.
From the opening introduction to the Parasha we are given a staunch wakeup call to realize just how vital the Ger is to Israel, and his ultimate role of the Final Redemption. As we begin to read, the commandments of the First Fruits are seemingly given over in a calm fashion, as a proper obligation incumbent on those who possess the Land, and their lives culminate in a proper Torah lifestyle. You will kindly take your First Fruits to [Jerusalem] a place that Hashem will choose to rest His Name, and the location of the indoctrinated Priest who will be there [waiting] in those days. Once there you are commanded to recite a thanksgiving of sorts once the fruits are given, stating that this entire episode is only possible due to the fact that my forefathers had problematic relationships in their religious ordeals [and in conjunction to and from the Land], and through a proper exile, I had come to the Land by the Hand of God; this entire ritual shall serve as a retelling of the story of the Torah, along with my historical rights to the Land and this Commandment of First Fruits. The [apparent] Jew is then told to be joyous of God’s Good…and then his eyes really do open, for he is about to read the Torah’s first “did He really say that?” moment. In other words, now is a good time to start to Love the Ger, for he is not just a happenstance to your household; he is your household.
The closing words to the passage are the following, “You shall rejoice with all the goodness that Hashem, your God, has given you [.] and [to] your house [is][:] You [Israelite], and the Levite [along with the Priest, as the Levites are the essential Priests – tithes of Jacob], and the Ger that is in your midst. (In another way of carving it up, one could say, You, [the Israelite] the Priest you brought the fruits to, then the Levite, and finally the Ger that is in your midst.) In other words, “enjoy the goodness,” and that goodness belongs to the adherent of the Torah, otherwise known as “your house” [those that you consist of]; the Israelites, Priests, Levites, and Gerim. Tradition has it that this is represented by the four-headed Hebrew Letter Shin that Jewish Men grace upon their Teffilin; A Shin with four-vav’s [Hebrew letter vav comprises the letter Shin], and each vav depicts a member of the Divine House – Israelites, Priests, Levites, and Gerim.
Now comes the arithmetic, to process what just happened here: I do this mitzvah, by “coming onto the Land,” seems to imply that I was put there, or in other words I was redeemed. The point of this redemption associated mitzvah, is so that I will be able to proclaim that my ancestors had a rough time, and that I come from this inheritance. I then pronounce that God delivered me to Israel, and I am to enjoy this good grace, and I shall indulge with a “Greater House of Israel.” To finalize what just happened, and to give context to desperate parts, Rashi [the Bible Commentator] states the giveaway prize of the century: YOU [the Jew] are to read the declaration, but the Ger is not to, for he may not truthfully state, “for our forefathers.” This is where arithmetic becomes the sacred algorithm.
Why am I the Jew redeemed all of a sudden? Did I earn it? Did I fail and God just gave it to me? Why do I pronounce this declaration [and the Ger not]? What is this distinction of my forefathers? What do I have in common with the Ger on this intimate level? To the “blind eye” this passage would simply appear as meandering dots to a mundane mitzvah that I simply may be too bored to even consider on a mature level. Yet if one produces a consolidated answer, it may just be the shockwave of a lifetime, one that sets in motion a nuclear Ger revelation that is sure to change one’s view of virtually everything that was ever told over as simple fact concerning daily Jewish life [and his association with the World, and thus by association, his true dealings with Gerim from all of Judaism’s history and future].
The plain facts here are, that in some scenario there was a redemption, and the Land is secured. In that security, the Jew will read a passage that states he has “merits of his forefathers” [zchus avos] and if he digs a little deeper, he will clearly see the writing on the wall that they were Gerim, and thus he too comes from Gerim and is in fact, the latest generation of those Gerim. The “Ger” who does not read the passage should he bring the First Fruits, does not have “zchus avos” for he is in his own right a proper Ger, not relying on past merit; he is a new root of merit for himself, and for Israel. To add to this revelation of the Ger, HE IS HERE [we are told; as if it is a given, i.e. without doubt – for it does not say “if there should be a Ger in your midst…”] Thus it is safe to say that “Israel” is the vessel for “zchus avos,” which is another way of saying, “a merit of Gerim” – i.e. a nation that merits Gerim, then, now, in and of themselves, and all types of Gerim – will be a part of this nucleus called Israel – proper. To put it simply, Israel and Gerim are intertwined and synonymous from its inception and creation, in an entity for all eternity. Yet don’t stop there, for the next obvious question will be, exactly why were “they” redeemed? [Notice the relative nature of the word “they”]
Israel was redeemed; them and simultaneously “the Gerim.” Israel has merits of Gerim, yet which Gerim hosted the redemptive merit, remains the relative dispute; for each step of the way one could argue Jewish – personal Ger – merit is the recipe for redemption, or, the merit given to them by the Gerim who are destined to link with Israel, was the mercy cry for Hashem to then redeem all of Israel [in merit of these Gerim]. This can be thought of in many ways, to conceive a ration that clearly illustrates to what extent external Ger merit weighs into the redemption code.
In truth, the premise that Israel alone would be redeemed on its own merit is a furphy, for when one is strict to the text with the essence of the Parasha invoked [i.e. eyes open], one can clearly see the message of Hashem in its profound nature. The redemption comes from the merit of Gerim. Period. Israel has zchus gerim. Period. This means Israel will be the destination for all Gerim for all of time, due to its creation point from History’s biggest Gerim. Thus Israel was created out of those Gerim to become host and “home” to all future Gerim. This is true also concerning redemption; Israel will have been redeemed by their innate Ger innards, along with the merit of the Gerim who will be attached by their rights to Israel by means of Ger passage. The Jewish redemption would then have succeeded due to realization of inherent Ger status, would have certainly brought external Ger merit to join with Israel. On the other hand, the Ger Proper, perhaps he is the impetus of redemption, for the sake of when the Jew proclaims his Ger essence [from the mitzvah of First Fruits], the Ger then understands that this “zchus gerim” is all about him!
In essence both are right, for the Jews will be redeemed from both a place of merit and disgrace, i.e. it will be their own power, yet it is God that will redeem through them. Perforce, they will have overlooked the Ger in disgrace, yet Hashem will force His hand in Blessing. The end result being, Israel will be redeemed from its merit, and Gerim will be there, sanctifying the ultimate truth that the Torah message was a message of redeeming Gerim, and thus they must be there, and equally their merit will usher redemption. To promote schism is completely counter-productive to the nature of redemption, for through the relative truth, Hashem will have repaired schism by “zchus gerim” from every angle, in a fashion that the proceeds will be spread on the True House of Israel – the Four- Headed Shin that graces Jews and Gerim side by side, and in perfect context. The Jew will realize his mission was to redeem Gerim, and the Ger will see all is in merit of zchus gerim, of which defines his essence in accordance to all Seventy – Faces of the Torah. Both have the right to officially say, “God redeemed me” because of “zchus gerim.” Thus the two were destined to be redeemed together, and from that standpoint, the mitzvah of First Fruits finally resonates on the Messianic level it deserves.
Now in the Parasha, we are faced with real challenges concerning life and the Gerim. To see how far reaching Gerim come into the life of the Jews, one must rethink just how real life society works, and one must consider the reality of Jews and Gerim side-by-side all through history. Inside this discussion, it raises issues with the true meaning of Gerim, converts, gentiles, friends of Israel, enemies of Israel, Jewish history in proper light, spiritual essences in the Greater House of Israel, Derech Eretz issues and relevance, the nature of God [from Ger truth revealed], the source of Blessings and Curses – and who Hashem uses as agents of His will, what constitutes proper service of God by Jews and Gerim, what is the essence of the Torah’s Command [and thus redemption], what is God teaching us, what is a Jew and what is a gentile, what is Sinai, what is this Covenant in our Parasha, and ultimately, as the Parasha ends, where are we exactly?
In essence, this Parasha gives you the Blessing of having your eyes opened to the facts of life, and urges you to not spurn the moment. Once one grasps where the eyes are led, nothing will remain the same, and for that Hashem says it is here [proverbially] every year, we receive revelation of what is incumbent upon the House of Israel. The story may be more complex than we know, yet it remains steadfastly clear, that the Ger is the star of the show in context clarification that paves the path to Redemption and the Goodness of Hashem to be enjoyed by all of Mankind. The truth may hurt and even be nearly impossible to absorb, and yet go on with normal life. For that, one message resonated with me loud and clear during my moments of clarity in reading the Parasha; we are to understand that God is awesome as a purpose of Life [28:58], and that message has its roots in Eikev [10:17-21]. There it states [what this Parasha is saying beyond words], “For Hashem, your God - He is the God of the powers and the Lord of the lords, the Great, Mighty, and Awesome God, who does not show favor and Who does not accept a bribe. He carries out the judgment of orphan and widow, and Loves the Ger to give him bread and garment. You shall love the Ger for you were Gerim in the Land of Egypt.”
Point blank, I think that is all we need to know, and now do…to which our Parasha closes with, “you shall observe the words of this Brit, and you shall perform them, so that you will succeed in all that you do.” And as the premise goes, our eyes are opened to see things with crystal clarity – that it was always about Loving Gerim, nor did it ever change. The task at hand is to remain with our eyes wide open and remember what it is that we truly see every day, in a fabric that is called life. Should it ever be a question, Hashem says, “Remember the Brit in the entire House of Israel found within Ki Savo.”
Audio Shiur on Parasha Motzie Shabbos [Tzfat Time] 11 P.M.