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Ki Savo
By Rabbi Yisroel Ciner

Dedicated in Memory of R' Naftali Hertz Kulik on His 22nd Yahrtzeit

This week we read the parsha of Ki Savo--when you will enter the Land of Israel--which begins with the commandment to bring the first fruits to the Temple in Yerushalayim. This is called the mitzvah of Bikurim. There is a passuk {verse} later on in the parsha, after Bikurim and a number of other commandments, which really hits upon an issue that I think plagues all of us to varying degrees at one point or another.

"Ha'yome ha'zeh Hashem Elokecha m'tzav'cha la'a'sos es ha'chukim v'es ha'mishpatim {On this day Hashem, your G-d, is commanding you to do the laws and judgments}[26:16]."

Why does the passuk say that on this day Hashem is commanding? Hadn't most mitzvos already been given at Sinai?

The Ramban explains that Moshe had now completed his task of teaching Bnei Yisroel all of the commandments. Therefore it was only from that day that Bnei Yisroel were commanded to do all of the laws and judgments.

Rashi, however, takes a different approach. Quoting the Medrash he explains: Every day they must be like new {k'chadashim} in our eyes, as if we had just been commanded.

Unbelievable. Imagine if Hashem would come forth and speak to us, giving us clear instructions as to what actions are in our best interests. Imagine the motivation and determination that we'd have to fulfill those instructions. According to Rashi, the passuk is exhorting us to feel that way every single day--k'chadashim {like new}.

But how can we maintain that freshness and excitement--that k'chadashim? We know that we human beings have a tremendous capacity to adjust to things.

On the first morning of camp, my wife and I were woken by the sounds of birds walking on our ceiling. They were inside the building and were having quite a time on the drop-ceiling of our room. The ceiling kept sagging under their weight and we were petrified that the birds would drop through the drop-ceiling with all of their droppings in tow! I thought to myself that if this is going to be a daily 'Close Encounter of the Fou/wl Kind' I'm never going to get a proper amount of sleep and I simply won't survive the summer. However, on the second day I found it far less annoying. By the third day, even though they seemed to be having quite a party up there, I simply didn't hear it. I had gotten used to it and it no longer moved me.

If that is the nature of man, how can we be commanded to feel as if the Torah was given today--that its words are k'chadashim? How can we feel freshness in our service to Hashem? We've already 'been there done that'. On whatever level of observance we're at, we've done what we do perhaps thousands of times already. How can we reach the level of k'chadashim?

Rav Volbe, in his Alay Shur, deals with the cycle of spiritual ups and downs that we are all subjected to. How at times it feels fresh and exciting and at times we feel like robots, mechanically going through the motions. How we can then begin to question ourselves: Is this really me? Where have the feelings gone? If I'm feeling (or not feeling) this way then maybe this really isn't for me...

He quotes from the Sefer Hayashar that one must realize right from the start that this is part and parcel of spiritual growth. An intrinsic part of this growth process is the ups and downs--the swings between the feelings of intimacy and the feelings of detachment. Having these feelings is as clear an indication as one can have that this is where you belong. This is for you.

It would be like giving up baseball because you once got a strike while at bat. Well I guess baseball just isn't for me... I'm clearly not cut out to be a basketball player because I missed a foul shot... It's part of the process.

But if that is so, doesn't the passuk become even harder to understand? If the ups and downs are inevitable and intrinsic parts of the spiritual growth process, how can I be commanded and expected to feel as if they are new? I've done it so many times already... I'm feeling distant and detached...

The Sefer Hayashar writes further that the factor which will determine if one is feeling intimate in his service to Hashem or detached from Him is chidush {newness}. One can make sure that his service doesn't become rote by constantly searching for new insights and understandings. Finding chidush in oneself and in one's service. The chidush can make everything k'chadashim.

Perhaps, that is the explanation of the commandment that we began with. We seem to be commanded to view the Torah as newly given each day. How can one possibly do that and furthermore, how can we be commanded to do something that seems to be beyond our nature and grasp?

Perhaps the commandment is in fact a very tangible one. Work at finding and infusing freshness into your fulfillment of the mitzvos. Study. Search. Open your eyes. Open your hearts. You'll thereby minimize the downs and maximize the ups--have short bouts of detachment surrounded by extended spells of intimacy.

Find chidush and you'll find the mitzvos to be k'chadashim.

Good Shabbos,

Yisroel Ciner

Copyright © 1999 by Rabbi Yisroel Ciner and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author teaches at Neveh Tzion in Telzstone (near Yerushalayim).

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