Halacha for Friday 15 Elul 5780 September 4 2020

Parashat Ki Tavo - [Don’t Misdirect the Blind and Don’t Misdirect Yourself!]

From HaGaon Rav Yaakov Sasson shlita a grandson of Maran ztvk”l, head of the Yeshiva for Rabbanim Tiferet Rashbi
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

It is stated in the Parasha, “Cursed is he who misdirects the blind on the way. And all the people shall say, ‘Amen’” (Devarim 27:18). We must understand why in our Parasha where only a few all-encompassing mitzvot are stated that the Torah warns us not to misdirect a blind person, yet the Torah has already said, “Do not place a stumbling block before a blind person” (Shemot 19:14). What is the unique importance that the Torah found it necessary to caution us again regarding a blind person?

In the Midrash Tehillim (Psalm 146) Chazal said, there is no greater and harsher affliction than blindness and therefore the Torah warned against it very much, not to mislead a blind person. This applies whether a person is literally blind and cannot see, or, does not know the severity of things and another person comes and causes them to stumble and sin. Therefore, the Torah warns us a number of time about misdirecting a blind person.

To what is this comparable? To a person who was leading laden camels and donkeys and one of his servants had placed an exceedingly heavy burden on one of the camels, much more than was on the other camels and donkeys.

He warned his servants, “Be careful with this camel, for I know that this burden is heavier than all the others!”

When they entered the city, they came to unburden the animals. The owner said to them, “First unburden this camel, because its burden is the heaviest.”

Likewise, Hashem commanded that we not mislead the blind, for there are no afflictions like it, and so it states, “Cursed is he who misdirects the blind on the way”. And so in the future when Hashem will come to heal the world, he will first heal the blind, as it states “Hashem opens the eyes of the blind” (Tehillim 146:8). And, who are the blind? They are these generations that approach the Torah in a blind fashion, as it states, “Feeling the wall in the dark like the blind and with no eyes feeling [our way]” (Isaiah 59:10 ).

This is because in the later generations, all read and do not know what they read, all study and do not know what they study, for the wisdom of the Torah in these generations is much less that what it was in previous generations. But in the future, “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened” (Isaiah 35:5).

So it transpires that in our generation we are akin to the blind, and feeling [aimlessly] in the dark due to our many sins.

Indeed, a parable is given about this. A man was travelling and got delayed a little, and because of a change in the roads he lost his way. He owned a valuable pearl, which fell from his hand and became lost, he just couldn’t find it because darkness had descended. So, he decided to sleep by the road, ready to search for the pearl at daybreak.

It transpired that at that very place another person was travelling from the nearby city and he too, lost his way and decided to sleep on a nearby tree. At night, the relatives of the second person, who were also from the nearby city, came and began searching for him assisted by torches. They called out to him but he didn’t respond because he was in a deep sleep; in fact, he was by nature a lazy person. Again and again they called him but he did not respond.

In the morning, he began crying out that he was cold and all of his body was full of cold bumps due to the extreme cold. The other person that was asleep nearby said to him, “See, you caused this discomfort yourself, because if you had woken up in the night to the sound of your calling relatives, you wouldn’t be cold, and with the help of their torches we would have found our missing items and reached the city”.

The analogy is understood as follows. Sometimes Hashem sends his prophets and messengers to awaken the Jewish People from their slumber. Because Hashem wishes to pay attention to us and return us to Him, as they advise that the four Hebrew letters that spell “Ellul”, stand for the four Hebrew words “Ani Le’Dodi Ve’Dodi Li” – “I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me”. This means that Hashem wishes that we be close, but we have not contemplated this and have remained blind as it were.

Regarding this the prophet says in this week’s Haphtarah, “Arise my light for [the time for] your light has come!” (Isaiah 60:1). The time for redemption has arrived! But we are still asleep and have not awakened. “A sound! My Beloved knocks! Open your heart to Me, my sister, My love, My dove” (Shir HaShirim 5:2). But we are too lazy to respond, “I took off my robe, how can I put it back on, I washed my feet, how can I soil them?” (5:3). And by the time we awaken, the time for repentance has passed and, “My beloved had turned His back” (5:6).

For we are asleep in the slumber of this world. The prophet cries out, “For behold! Darkness may cover the earth and a thick darkness the kingdoms, but upon you Hashem will shine, and His glory will be seen upon you!” And if only we would awake, we could fulfil the continuation of the verse, “Nations will walk by your light and kings by the brilliance of your shine” (Isaiah 60:2-3).

This means that the nations walk in the light of the Jewish People, for they too require remedying through the salvation of the Jewish People. And so explained Chazal (Sanhedrin  99a) when a heretic asked Rabbi Avahu, “When will Mashiach arrive?” Rabbi Avahu replied, “When it will be dark for them”. The heretic responded, “Are you cursing us?” He replied, “It is a passuk, ‘darkness may cover the earth’ and only then ‘upon you Hashem will shine’. (Isaiah 60:2)”.

As such we are [potentially] ready and near to the eternal light, and we should repent, “Let us search and examine our ways and return to Hashem” (Eicha 3:40).

Shabbat Shalom!

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