Ki Savo

D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


First Fruits & Curses

Contact Rabbi Spero at 862-9546 or


This week’s portion starts off with the mitsva of bikurim—first fruits. “It will be when you enter the land that G-d gives you as an inheritance, and you possess it, and dwell in it, that you shall take of the first of every fruit of the ground that you bring in from your land” (Deut. Ch.26 v.1-2).

Later on in the portion, we find perhaps the most frightening part of the Torah: the section of the curses. “But it will be that if you do not listen to the voice of Hashem, your G-d, to observe and perform all His commandments and all His decrees that I command you today, then all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.” (Deut. Ch.28 v.15).  The curses constitute 67 verses found in chapters 27 and 28.

What is the there to be learnt from the curses? And what is the connection between the curses and the first fruit that they should be listed in the same portion?

There is a well known fact in parenting, that children need discipline. If parents truly love their child, they don’t allow him or her to run wild and do as they please. On the contrary, they establish rules in the home. And if the children break these rules they are punished. This is obviously done because the parents love their children and they realize that children need guidance in order to reach their potential. Sometimes, this comes in the form of punishment, but ultimately the punishment is for the good of the child.

G-d has two ways of dealing with us: lovingkindness and judgment. These two things combined equal the concept of mercy. When G-d deems it necessary to punish us, He does so with the left—or the weaker— hand (figuratively, not literally). All the curses mentioned are intended as a warning to us—similar to the warning a father might give to a son. Throughout our history with so much suffering we might find it easier to say that G-d has given up on us. This is not so. Though we might not know the specific reason for all the suffering, we do know that ultimately it is done out of love—to warn us to observe the commandments.

That is why the mitsva of the first born fruits is mentioned here. The midrash says that first fruits are one of three things in whose merit the world was created (tithes and challah, also agricultural commandments, are the others). The commandment of the first fruits, and of agricultural commandments in general, have a unique duality to them. While they are commandments which concern the relationship between man and G-d (through performing them, man realizes who is the ultimate provider), they also concern the relationship between man and man, as they are providing sustenance to the Priests and Levites who do not have a portion in the land (they do not have a portion because their ultimate goal is to dedicate their time directly to G-d, not to the land).

The proximity of the list of curses with the lines regarding the first fruits tells us that though we might sin, and though G-d might punish us, nonetheless, our ultimate purpose here on this world is for good, like the first fruits themselves.


Home ] Up ]