Ki Tavo

Devarim 28:2

וּבָאוּ עָלֶיךָ כָּל הַבְּרָכוֹת הָאֵלֶּה וְהִשִּׂיגֻךָ כִּי תִשְׁמַע בְּקוֹל ה’ אֱ-לֹ-הֶיךָ
Hashem promises that if we listen to His words, then He will bestow blessings upon us, and then an unexpected word is used:  וְהִשִּׂיגֻךָ

Many mephorshim pick up on this seemingly odd phrasing; first, the passuk already tells us that the blessings will come to us, so why do we need another verb to tell us that we’ll be receiving blessing, and second, v’hisigucha, is most commonly translated as ‘overtaken’ or ‘captured’ – aggressive verbs we don’t typically associate with blessings.

A number of the explanations offered by various mephorshim are brought down by Rav Baruch Simon in hisImrei Baruch: Ki Tavo, maimar bet. A quick summary of a few of them:
1.  The Degel Machaneh Ephraim points out that the passuk should say, that we attain/capture the bracha, not the bracha attains us. He answers using another passuk from Tehillim 23:6:
אַךְ טוֹב וָחֶסֶד יִרְדְּפוּנִי כָּל יְמֵי חַיָּי

Who runs away from good? And why is good ‘chasing’ us?
Sometimes in life we don’t know that a certain occurrence will good for us. We may run away, so to speak, from something that will ultimately be good but just don’t realize it yet. This passuk in Ki Tavo and the words of Dovid HaMelech are a prayer that even when we run from or avoid something that we don’t realize as good, and don’t chase after it ourselves, that ultimately it catches up to us and we become enraptured in the blessing.

2.  Rav Tzaddok HaKohen suggests that Moshe is giving us a bracha of anivus. An abundance of blessings and kindness from Hashem is wonderful, but we can’t let it alter who we are (for the bad), or blind us to forget our ideals and the truly important aspects of life. To quote, V’hisigucha is saying“vhisigucha bimkomcha = to keep you in your place; the place where you were before the blessings started pouring in. Newly-attained wealth should change and increase our tzeddaka-giving practices, but not change us into a haughty, unappreciative, ostentatious, egomaniac.

The Sheim MiShmuel has a beautiful reading of the passuk in Toldos describing Yitzchak’s accumulation of wealth (Breishis 26:13):
וַיִּגְדַּל הָאִישׁ וַיֵּלֶךְ הָלוֹךְ וְגָדֵל עַד כִּי גָדַל מְאֹד
He says that the passuk doesn’t refer to Yitzchak by name; just an ish/man. Why? Because the words are a reflection of Yitzchak’s heart, who didn’t think that he was any better than anyone just because of his newfound wealth. He knew it was all from Hashem. No thoughts of kochi v’otzeim yadi. Yitzchak Avinu was the same man and on the same, humble social/mental/spiritual rung before the blessings of abundance, as he was after. V’hisigucha bimkomcha.

3.  Rav Yisroel (Taub, I believe) of Modzitz understands v’hisigucha in terms of hasaga – mentalcomprehension and knowledge.

He says that there are many people who have tremendous riches but don’t know how to (or simply don’t want to) properly use that wealth. The wealth is used only on themselves, or only for fleeting and meaningless objects and thrills, etc. When we receive Hashem’s blessings – whether it be money, talents or otherwise –  the hope is that we can use it to improve the lives of those less fortunate, through tzeddaka, chessed and compassion.
We see this idea in many places, one of which is in the zemer of Menucha V’simcha, sung on Friday night. The author writes: B’rov mat’amim v’ruach nedivah, meaning that when we have the blessings of rov mat’amim/abundance of tasty foods (i.e. wealth), that we are supposed to possess and express aruach nedivah – a spirit of giving. Having much should naturally flow into giving much, and to give b’nidivas leiv.
(Another way to understand this, which I saw brought down by the Divrei Yehoshua  is that when we eat the rov mat’amim on Shabbos, that we do so as a ‘nedava‘, in thanks and recognition, to Hashem and for oneg Shabbos, instead of to simply stuff our faces.)

4.  Finally, a related idea that came to mind is something I once heard explaining the difference between bracha and schar. On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between a blessing and reward…

In truth, however, a schar/reward is akin to a nice pat on the back for doing something good. It is a reward that you get and sit back and enjoy.

A bracha, on the other hand is an ENABLER. It is a gift from Hashem that the recipient of the bracha is supposed to use to do enrich the world; a bracha is something you are supposed to harness and utilize for something great. The message being, take the blessings referred to by Moshe and Hashem, and let them ‘take you over,’ empowering us with the G-d-given abilities and skills to positively affect others and the world around us.

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