Ki Seitzei 5783


Birds, chicks, and bris milah[1]

כי יקרא קן-צפור לפניך בדרך וגו’ והאם רבצת על-האפרחים או על-הביצים לא-תקח האם על-הבנים: שלח תשלח את-האם ואת-הבנים תקח-לך למען ייטב לך והארכת ימים
When you chance upon a bird’s nest while on the way…and the mother is perched on her chicks or on her eggs, don’t take the mother upon the children. [Rather][2] send away the mother bird and take the children for yourself, in order to be good for you and that you’ll lengthen your days’[3]

A popular mitzvah nowadays is the mitzvah to send away the mother bird. Perhaps because of the Torah’s promise of a long life, people yearn for an opportunity to fulfill this mitzvah. The Torah tells us not to take the chicks or eggs when the mother bird is perched upon them. Rather, send away the mother bird, and then take the children for yourself.

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Re’eh 5783


Preemptive incentives[1]

את-הברכה אשר תשמעו אל-מצות יקוק אלקיכם אשר אנכי מצוה אתכם היום: והקללה אם-לא תשמעו אל-מצות יקוק אלקיכם וגו’‏
The blessings [you’ll receive] for your listening to the mitzvos of Hashem your G-d, that I command you all today. And the curses [you’ll receive] if you don’t listen to the mitzvos of Hashem your G-d[2]

The parsha begins with instructions to the Jewish people which they are to follow upon entering the land. They are to divide onto two mountains, one called Har Gerizim and one called Har Eival, and a series of blessings and curses are to be enunciated. These blessings are to follow upon proper Torah observance, and the curses for the opposite. However, many note[3] an inconsistency in the verses which describe this ceremony. When describing the blessings, it says they are to follow “for listening to the mitzvos”. However, when describing the curses, it says they are to follow “if you don’t listen”. The curses sound conditional, and the blessings more definite. What gives?

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Eikev 5783


Prized Heels[1]

והיה עקב תשמעון את המשפטים האלה ושמרתם ועשיתם אתם ושמר יקוק אלקיך לך את-הברית ואת-החסד אשר נשבע לאבתיך
It will be Eikev you listen to these judgments and safeguard and fulfill them, Hashem your G-d will guard you, the covenant, and the lovingkindness that He swore to your forefathers[2]

Our verse uses an unusual expression. “It will be Eikev you listen” to Hashem’s commandments. Eikev usually is translated as heel. Targum Onkelos translates[3] it in this case as “in return for your listening to these judgments”. Meaning, the verse is telling us a reward we’ll receive for our mitzvah observance. However, our Sages were bothered[4] why didn’t the verse use the traditional word בעבור, meaning due to our loyalty, we’ll receive reward. Why use the same word for heel? Furthermore, the verse sounds like it’s encouraging us to serve Hashem to receive reward. The problem is, our Sages adjured[5] us to do just the opposite[6]!

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