Rabbi Eliad Skuri
Former Rosh Kollel in Kansas City


Most of our parsha deals with the brit (covenant) in Arvot Moav, which includes short brachot (blessings) and longer klalot (curses). This brit is, in effect, a “Mishneh Torah” (a “review” or “repetition” of the original) of the brit in Har Sinai – which is described at the end of Sefer Vayikra.

There are two main differences between the two britot:

1. In both britot, the klalah is described in greater length than the bracha. However, in Sefer Vayikra, most of the psukim focus on events occurring when Am Yisrael is in Eretz Yisrael, while galut (exile) is mentioned only briefly. In contrast, here, most of the text discusses the klalah’s reality outside of Eretz Yisrael.

In Sinai, the klalah is measured and numbered:

“I will add to your torment seven for your sins.” (Vayikra 26:18)

In other words, the klalah has a limit. Am Yisrael is exiled; the teshuva (repentance) process stimulates the brit and the Divine protection which safeguards Yisrael in the land of their enemies; and the klalah winds up with reconciliation between HaKadosh Baruch Hu and Am Yisrael:

“I will remember for them the covenant of the ancestors, whom I took out from the land of Egypt before the eyes of the nations, to be God to them – I am Hashem.” (Vayikra 26:45)

But in our parsha, the klalah is not quantified or limited. Instead, we have a relentless string of klalot, and the brit itself concludes with base degradation:

“And there, you will seek to be sold to your enemies as slaves and handmaidens, but there will be no buyer.” (Devarim 28:68)

In his Teshuvot, the Ridbaz notes that the brit in our parsha ends with a klalah, rather than a bracha and rectification. However, he adds, the brit actually continues on into the next parsha – Parshat Nitzavim – which describes the End of Days, which follows both the bracha and the klalah. Also, Parshat Nitzavim depicts Hashem’s return to Am Yisrael as well as Am Yisrael’s return to Hashem and to Eretz Yisrael.

Yet, several questions remain. Why did the Torah introduce such a definite separation between the klalah and the bracha and also between the galut and the geulah (redemption)? Moreover, why are the galut and the geulah in the brit at Sinai written sequentially, while in Moav, there is a separation between the galut and the geulah?

The Torah presents us with two approaches to geulah. In Sefer Vayikra, geulah is based on the past. Am Yisrael dwells in Eretz Yisrael; the nation behaves inappropriately; and galut arrives in the form of a temporary distancing. This momentary estrangement serves its purpose and motivates Am Yisrael to return to itself, to confess, and to eliminate all its past failures.

But Sefer Devarim describes a longer galut. Apparently, Am Yisrael’s ills are now harder to heal and shake off. The decay and rot go much deeper, and therefore, a simple return to the past is insufficient. In fact, the past is irredeemable; there is no going backwards. Thus, the Torah describes Am Yisrael being “stuck” in the klalah; there is no natural way out of this galut.
As a result, the geulah must be more profound as well; it must come from a Source which is unbeknown to man. Rather than being derived from Am Yisrael’s past, the geulah must be drawn from brand new forces. The very formation of these new powers will permit us to return to Hashem, to ourselves, and to our Land.

The navi compares it to childbirth:

“Who heard a thing like this? Who saw things like these? Is a land delivered in one day? Is a nation born at once, that Tzion both delivered and bore her children?” (Yeshaya 66:8)

Only Hashem can enact such a birth:

“I am Hashem, your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Yaakov.” (Yeshaya 60:16)

In Netzach Yisrael, the Maharal distinguishes between the final geulah and all the earlier ones:

“There is still a big difference between the first geulah and the final geulah, which necessitates the suppression and the concealment of the final geulah. And it is also an evident matter which should not be questioned. And it is that the first geulah in Egypt was based on the merit of the Avot (Forefathers), because He promised the Avot that the sons would be liberated. Therefore, it was possible to know the end, because the end was due to the Avot. But the final geulah comes from Hashem Yitbarach Himself. Therefore, the end is extraordinary – an event which comes from Hashem Yitbarach Himself.”

Although the initial galut – Galut Bavel (the Babylonian exile) – was indeed fleeting, the subsequent geulah was brief as well. However, the final galut, which includes manifestations of the terrible klalot listed in our parsha, will yield a true and lasting rectification and reclamation.