SALT - Thursday, 14 Elul 5780 - September 3, 2020

  • Rav David Silverberg
            We read in Parashat Ki-Tavo of the blessings which God promises to bestow upon Benei Yisrael if they obey His commands.  Among the blessings promised is, “Ve-hotirekha Hashem le-tova…”  The word “ve-hotirekha” in this verse is difficult to translate, as this word normally means, “will leave you over.”  It is thus very unclear to what this refers in this context.  The verse continues by promising blessing in regard to reproduction and economic prosperity, but it is difficult to understand what is meant by the word “ve-hotirekha.”
            Rav Saadia Gaon explains, “yosif lekha Hashem tova” – “God will add goodness to you.”  It appears that he understood the word “ve-hotirekha” to mean not “leave over,” but rather “add,” or “increase” (as in the word “yoteir” – “more”).  According to this interpretation, the verse here simply promises an abundance of blessing of fertility and prosperity.
            Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, in his Torah commentary, suggests that this word refers to a blessing of exceptionalism, a blessing that makes the nation stand out from all others.  In Rav Hirsch’s words, “God makes you appear in all that is good, compared to the other nations, as superior, ranking above.”  According to Rav Hirsch, the word “ve-hotirekha” means “extra,” referring to the fact that God would bless Benei Yisrael with prosperity that exceeds that of other nations.  This explains the connection between this verse and the next verse, which foresees Benei Yisrael granting financial assistance to others nations without requiring financial assistance from them (“ve-hilvita goyim rabim ve-ata lo tilveh”).  And then, in the subsequent verse, the Torah promises, “The Lord will make you the head and not the tail,” referring to Benei Yisrael’s superiority by virtue of the extraordinary material blessings with which they will be rewarded.
            A chassidic reading of this verse is offered by Rav Yitzchak Yaakov of Biala, in Divrei Bina, one which maintains the common meaning of the verb “hotir” – “leave over.”  He suggests that the Torah here alludes to the enduring effects of the good deeds we perform, which remain long after we depart this world.  The verse speaks of blessings “with the fruit of your belly, the fruit of your animals and the fruit of your land,” and the Rebbe of Biala explains this to mean that God will ensure that we “leave over” blessing in everything we involve ourselves in over the course of our lifetime.  If we live the way He commands us to live, then our mitzva acts will yield a profound, everlasting effect.  They will leave an indelible imprint upon our offspring (“the fruit of your belly”), and even on our material assets (“the fruit of your animals and the fruit of your land”). 
            The Rebbe of Biala here teaches us that everything we do, every action, has a long-lasting effect.  Every kind word spoken to another person can impact that person’s life, yielding a far-reaching ripple effect that then impacts so many other people.  Every small deed is consequential, and profoundly so.  We must therefore ensure to carefully consider every deed and every word so that we will leave the world having made the most positive impact that we were capable of making.