This week’s Torah reading, Parshas Ki Savo, describes an episode that took place as the Jews neared the land of Israel. The Jews were split up into two groups, with half standing on Mount Grizim and the other half stood across on Mount Eival. In the middle stood the tribe of Levi, as its members recited a number of blessings for those who fulfilled various commandments (see Rashi 27:12), and corresponding curses for those who transgressed them. The final curse is dictated as follows: “Cursed is the one who will not uphold this entire Torah.”
Rabeinu Yonah (in Sha’arei Teshuva 3:19) quotes a passage from the Jerusalem Talmud which says that this is referring to one who studied Torah, taught Torah to others and kept its Mitzvos (commandments), but refrains from supporting others who study Torah and do Mitzvos, despite his ability to do so. Even if he is perfect in his own conduct, the fact that he neglects to support others in their service of God earns him a special curse.
Rabeinu Yonah explains that a servant who is truly loyal to his master doesn’t just make sure his own duties are fulfilled. A real loyal servant does his best to make sure others perform their service properly for his master as well. If someone doesn’t care to support the Torah and Mitzvah performance of others, as much as he achieved in his personal role, he is considered to be disloyal to God and is deserving of being cursed.
Shortly after Rabbi Gershon Ribner married off his daughter, he approached his new son-in-law with an envelope and handed it to him. “What’s this?” asked the son-in-law. “This is for the support I committed myself to give you for studying Torah,” answered Rabbi Ribner. The son-in-law politely refused the funds and said, “No, thank you, I don’t want it.” Rabbi Ribner was taken aback by the unexpected reaction. But instead of feeling pleased in being absolved from his financial obligation, he asserted that his son-in-law accept the money with the claim, “As part of the agreement for the match, I was granted the merit of supporting your Torah learning and I insist that you accept it.”
Despite being a scholar in his own right and educating many students in Torah, he longed to help out his son-in-law in his Torah study, and would not take “no” for an answer. This is a crucial principle to keep in mind. When we work on studying and keeping the Torah, do we really care about the service of God or are we merely out to see that we took care of our own duties?
This can be determined by analyzing our attitude concerning the Torah and Mitzvah fulfillment of others. Are we interested in others succeeding in becoming great in Torah or does it not mean that much to us? Are we eager to financially support Torah institutions or individuals studying Torah, or do we feel we can do without it? Are we looking out to see how we can help others maximize their potential in growing in Torah studies and its ways or are we primarily satisfied with our own spiritual achievements?
Whenever we have the opportunity to support Torah and Mitzvos in any way, we are facing the deciding factor in whether we really care about the service of God. And just as there is a special curse designated for one who fails to do so, there is a special blessing reserved for those who express their earnest concern for the glory of Heaven by doing whatever they can to support and encourage the Torah study and Mitzvah performance of others.
Parshas Ki Savo by Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber (firstname.lastname@example.org)