שביבי אש
לסדר כי תבא

הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה ה"א מְצַוְּךָ לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת הַחֻקִּים הָאֵלֶּה וְאֶת הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים וְשָׁמַרְתָּ וְעָשִׂיתָ אוֹתָם בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשֶׁךָ

This day the Lord your G-d has commanded you to do these statutes and judgments; you shall therefore keep and do them with all your heart, and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 26:16)

In the Midrash Tanhuma it is written: This verse (Deuteronomy 26:16) bears on the verse (Psalms 95:6): "O, come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker." Moses foresaw that the Holy Temple was destined to be destroyed and that the offering of the first fruits was destined to be interrupted, so he arose and decreed that they should pray three times daily.

And it appears to our master that the Midrash correctly deduces from this verse that prayer was instituted to substitute for the offering of the first fruits, because prayer is a service of the heart (עבודה שהוא בלב). As the Sages say in the Talmud (Ta'anit 2a): "What is Service of Heart? You must conclude, Prayer. " The verse must therefore be explained as follows: "This day" (הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה) (referring to a time when the Holy Temple is in existence) "the Lord your G-d commands you to do these statutes and ordinances" (ה"א מְצַוְּךָ לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת הַחֻקִּים הָאֵלֶּה וְאֶת הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים), that is, the offering of the first fruits and to the separation of the tithes that were just mentioned (Deuteronomy 26:12). However, there will come a time when "you shall be careful to do them with all your heart and all your soul" (וְשָׁמַרְתָּ וְעָשִׂיתָ אוֹתָם בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשֶׁךָ), so that you will be able attain your desires only through doing these commandments by way of your heart and soul, that is, through prayer. And this is suggested by what is written in the Midrash concerning the verse above (Deuteronomy 26:15):

"Look down from Thy holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Thy people Israel, and the ground which Thou hast given us" (הַשְׁקִיפָה מִמְּעוֹן קָדְשְׁךָ מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם וּבָרֵךְ אֶת עַמְּךָ אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאֵת הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַתָּה לָנוּ). Come and see how great are those who bring forth the tithes, for every expression of "looking down" (השקפה) in the Scriptures is for ill, but here it is for good. And one who brings forth the tithe does not depart until he is receives the following promise: "May you merit to bring forth the tithe again next year."

And Rashi quotes the Sifri on this verse: "Look down from Thy holy habitation . . . and bless Thy people Israel:" We have done what Thou hast laid upon us; do Thou now what lies upon Thee to do, because Thou hast said (Leviticus 26:3-4): "If you walk in My statutes and observe My commandments and do them, then I will give you rains in their season and the land shall yield its increase and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit."

From here it is clearly evident that those who brought forth the first fruits to the Holy Temple did not come mournfully and did not speak beseechingly, like indigent persons begging for a gratuitous gift. Rather they demanded what was theirs under the law. And they did so based on what the Sages said concerning the verse (Malachi 3:10): "And thereby put Me to the test, says the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour out an overflowing blessing" - that it is forbidden to test the Eternal except in connection with giving tithes. It was therefore proper to say: "this day you may demand under the law your share without supplication." But Moses foresaw that the Holy Temple would be destroyed and the bringing of the first fruits would be suspended, so that they would no longer be able to demand their share with an upraised hand. He therefore arose and decreed that they should pray three times daily like a poor person who asks and pleads at the doorway, not like those who brought the tithes who did not beg for a gratuitous favor from the Almighty, but instead said: "Look down from Thy holy abode, from Heaven . . ."

וְהָיָה כַּאֲשֶׁר שָׂשׂ יְהוָה עֲלֵיכֶם לְהֵיטִיב אֶתְכֶם וּלְהַרְבּוֹת אֶתְכֶם כֵּן יָשִׂישׂ יְהוָה עֲלֵיכֶם

And it shall come to pass, that as the Lord rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you; so the Lord will rejoice (Deuteronomy 28:63)

In the Talmud (Megilah 10b) the Sages ask: "Now does the Holy One, blessed be He, rejoice in the downfall of the wicked?" And the answer that is given is that He Himself does not rejoice, rather He will make others rejoice, because the verse uses the verb form "יָשִׂישׂ" rather than "ישוש" However, we find the hiphil verb form "יָשִׂישׂ" elsewhere (Psalms 19:6): "Which comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and like a strong man runs its course with joy" (כְּחָתָן יֹצֵא מֵחֻפָּתוֹ יָשִׂישׂ כְּגִבּוֹר לָרוּץ אֹרַח). In that verse, too, the pa'al verb form "ישוש" is not used, and certainly there we cannot understand "יָשִׂישׂ" to mean that he will make others rejoice. And, as we know, there are many instances where verbs are conjugated in the hiphil form, yet they are not causative.

Were it not for the words of Hazal it would have appeared to our master to answer their question as follows. The Holy One Blessed Be He does not rejoice in the downfall of the wicked of the nations of the world, because their downfall is absolute as it is written (Job 12:23): "He makes nations great and destroys them." In other words (Psalms 55:24), "He will cast them down to the lowest pit," and never will they live or see light again. That is why the Eternal does not rejoice over the downfall of these creations of His hands. But the Children of Israel about whom it is said (Amos 5:2): "She has fallen, but never again, arise, Virgin of Israel" (נָפְלָה לֹא תוֹסִיף קוּם בְּתוּלַת יִשְׂרָאֵל); and it is also said (Leviticus 26:44): "Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them, so as to destroy them utterly and break My covenant with them." For the Eternal will never wipe them out, and whatever "evil which He thought to do to His people" was intended only to cause them to turn away from their evil path, as it is written (Ezekiel 18:32): "so turn and live" (שׁוּבוּ וִחְיוּ).

Now the halakhah teaches us that one who tears down on the Sabbath in order to build is culpable for performing constructive work on the Sabbath, because the purpose of any activity is determined by the end that is sought. And just as a true surgeon will rejoice to the utmost when he cuts away dead flesh "like a loathed untimely birth" (Isaiah 14:19) in order to cure and restore the patient, so the Eternal rejoices when He punishes us justly in order to cause us to return to Him. "The Lord hath chastened us sorely; But He has not given us over to death" (Psalms 118:18). And this He has promised in this terrifying rebuke: "And as the Lord took delight in doing you good, and in multiplying you; so the Lord will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you." This means that He will not conduct Himself with us as He does with the all the wicked of the nations in whose destruction He takes no delight them since once they reach the grave they never arise again. But with us He will take delight in administering His punishment to us. For His longing is to cause us to return from our evil path so that He may doing us good. And this is a comfort to Israel and a secure promise.

וְהִתְמַכַּרְתֶּם שָׁם לְאֹיְבֶיךָ לַעֲבָדִים וְלִשְׁפָחוֹת וְאֵין קֹנֶה

And there ye shall sell yourselves unto your enemies for bondmen and for bondwoman, and no man shall buy you. (Deuteronomy 28:68)

Rashi comments: You will seek to be sold to them for slaves and handmaids. . . It would not be correct to interpret v'hitmakartem in the sens of "and you will be sold" (ונמכרתם), i.e., by sellers other than yourselves, because it adds afterwards "but no one will buy you" (וְאֵין קֹנֶה).

From his words it appears that Rashi would have interpreted "והתמכרתם" as similar to "v'nimkartem" [i.e., as a nifal verb rather than a hitpael verb] if the words "וְאֵין קֹנֶה" had not been written. He therefore interpreted "והתמכרתם" as a hitpael verb meaning that they will seek to be sold. And our master said that in the Midrash "והתמכרתם" is in fact interpreted as a nifal verb meaning that you will be sold. And the words "וְאֵין קֹנֶה" he interprets as meaning that there will be no one who will want to buy you. His view in offering this interpretation was that the children of Israel are the offspring of kings, leaders and aristocrats, and therefore could never sink to the lowest level to become a humiliated slave or a disgraced maidservant. And even when they are in the land of their enemy and are sold as slaves and maidservants, even then their grandeur will remain and their countenance will not fall. On the contrary, they will rule over their lords, because an enlightened servant will rule over a disgraceful son, as is evident from Joseph who, when in the house of his Egyptian lord, was appointed by him to manage his lord's house and property. And even in the most difficult time for Joseph, when he was incarcerated with the prisoners of war and affliction, he found favor in the eyes of the prison warden who placed all the other prisoners under his authority, because his appearance testified that his was not the way of a slave, the son of an ignoble family.

The Midrash therefore came to teach us not to explain the verse literally. The words "וְאֵין קֹנֶה" do not mean that there are no buyers that could buy them from those selling them, but rather that the buyers who would buy them as slaves would recognize that they would not be buying slaves and maidservants but masters - aristocratic, noble, and gifted. The Midrash therefore further commented on the words "וְאֵין קֹנֶה" "there will be no one that can buy you" (אין מי שיקנה אתכם), as if to say that there will be no one about whom it could be said that he bought you for slaves or maidservants, because this is not your role and you are not fit to be sold as slaves and therefore will not sold into slavery. And this, too, is a comfort.