KI SAVO (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8) — “How Could G-d Let this Happen to Me?”

I turned on my car radio this morning (Thursday) and heard innocent voices of youth reciting a list of names. 2,792 names, read in alphabetical order, often preceded by, “and my father, _____”, or “and my mother and my hero, ____ “, or my dear uncle, _____.”  

So sad.  It seems like a million years ago, and it seems like only yesterday.  The day the world changed forever.  The day that many people said to America, “Welcome to Israel.”  Now everybody knows what a fragile and volatile cocoon of a world we live in.  

We have also come to appreciate what a great and noble country we are privileged to live in.  9/11, with all its hate and destruction, demonstrated the valor and bravery of regular people.  It taught us to appreciate the freedoms that we all too often take for granted. 


Today’s Hebrew lesson is about the word hasagah.  Coming from the root word,נשג, it can be translated as “reaching,” “attaining,” or “perception.”   One can physically or intellectually arrive at a destination or understanding:  

In Leviticus, 14:30, …taSIG yado…, literally, his hand will REACH, means that which he will be able to afford.  

Joseph told his servant, “Pursue the men, v’HISAGtam — and CATCH UP with them.” (Genesis, 44:4) 

When asked about his age, Jacob told the Pharaoh that his years “ . . . lo HISIGu — didn’t REACH . . .” (Ibid, 47:9) the ages that his father and grandfather had reached.  

In “Yeshiva vernacular” one might say, “You have no HASAGAH what a great time I had on my vacation!”  Translation: “You have no IDEA. . . “, i.e., you haven’t ARRIVED at the ability to understand.  

A less common translation is “challenge” or “criticism.”  Mishnah Torah, the great 14-volume work on Jewish Law by Maimonides, is printed with the HASAGAHsCHALLENGES of the Raavad, a great scholar who often strenuously objected to the rulings offered by Maimonides.  


The word appears in this week’s Torah Portion.  Moses describes the blessings that G-d will give as a reward for following His commandments.  These blessings will come to you, v’HISIGucha – and they will REACH you.  (Deuteronomy, 28:2)  

HISIGucha – they will REACH you.  Moses is promising that G-d’s blessings will reach us.  That seems to be a reasonable translation.  As I pointed out above, this verse uses the meaning of the word based on the concept of arriving somewhere.  

The Gerrer Rebbe offers a different understanding.  I heard Rabbi Moshe Tendler explain that the first Rebbe of Ger, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Rothenberg Alter, of blessed memory, in his book Chiddushei HaRim, pointed to the other definition of hasagah.  He understands “These blessings will come to you, v’HISIGucha” that the blessings will be CHALLENGES, “like the Hasagahs, the Challenges of the Raavad against Maimonides!”  

Whatever does that mean?  What does the Gerrer Rebbe mean, that G-d’s blessings will be like the Raavad’s Challenges?  

You know what it’s like when someone says something that is clearly wrong.  You point it out and prove him wrong.  The Raavad studied Torah in depth and often came to different conclusions than Maimonides.  He strongly disputed many of Maimonides’ decisions, and hotly challenged them in print.  What does this have to do with G-d’s promise of blessings? 


People tend not to pay attention to a positive status quo.  If everyone is healthy, business is good, and no one is crashing airplanes into office buildings, we go about our lives in peaceful equanimity.  Only when things go awry do we start to take notice.  

Rabbi Tendler put it this way – If G-d forbid someone discovers that he is ill, he starts to pay attention to matters spiritual.  “What can I do,” the person ponders, “to receive G-d’s blessings to recover from this illness?”  He prays a little harder and longer, studies a bit more Torah, and gives more charity, all in the hopes of finding his way back into G-d’s good graces.  

Why is it that we wait for things to get bad before we start paying attention?  Why do we challenge G-d when we, in our infinitesimal minds think He is being too hard on us?  Did anyone ever ask, “G-d, why are You so good to me?  What could I have done to deserve your bountiful blessings?  G-d!  I’m not that good!”  

These blessings will come to you, v’HISIGucha. The blessings will be challenges, like the Raavad’s challenges to Maimonides.  The Torah promises blessings that will be so great that we will be confounded by G-d’s largess.  We will wonder, “How can this be?”  Our cup will overflow with Divine generosity to such an extent that it will just make no sense.  

When will this miracle day come?  When will we reach that magical, mystical, miraculous time when G-d will provide us with overwhelming kindness beyond our ability to comprehend?  

It happens every day. 

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz 


From the Archives

“A Basketful of Thanks” (2009) 

… The farmer would go out to his field.  He would examine his olive orchards and his vineyards.  As soon as he saw the first bud that became a ripe fruit, he tied a string around it for future identification.  (“This Bud’s for You!”)  At harvest time, he would take that olive, or that cluster of grapes, or that wheat stalk and bring it to Jerusalem in a basket… 

After all the love and protection that G-d has bestowed upon His children, how dare we thank Him with a measly single fruit?  “Thanks for saving my life and making me a millionaire.  Here, have a raisin!”… 

Read more


 “It’s Aramaic to Me!” (2008) 

… Hearing the entire Torah in Shul is not sufficient: 

“Although one hears the entire Torah every Shabbos with the congregation, he is required to personally read every week from that week’s Portion, twice from the text, and once from Targum. (‘Translation’)” – Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, 285:1) … 

Every week, people read each verse of the upcoming Torah reading twice, followed by the Aramaic translation …

How about English?  Would it be acceptable for us Americans, whose Aramaic skills may be a little rusty, to read it twice in Hebrew, and once in English?…  

Read more


 “Gateway to the Holy Land” (2005) 

… I was the only orthodox Jew on the street.  Very few live on the surrounding streets.  It is neither time- nor cost-effective for the charitable institutions to send their representatives to this neighborhood. 

…I opened the door and beheld a young Chassidic Yeshivah student.  “Ah freilichin Purim!”  he cried.  “Happy Purim!”  I invited him into my home, where the two of us sang and danced for a minute or so.  I gave him a donation and thanked him for bringing a Mitzvah to my home. 

“But how did you know to come here?” I asked. 

“Simple,” he responded. . . 

Read more


 “How Could G-d Let this Happen to Me?” (2003) 

I turned on my car radio this morning (Thursday) and heard innocent voices of youth reciting a list of names. 2,792 names, read in alphabetical order, often preceded by, “and my father, _____”, or “and my mother and my hero, ____ “, or my dear uncle, _____.” 

So sad.  It seems like a million years ago, and it seems like only yesterday.  The day the world changed forever.  The day that many people said to America, “Welcome to Israel.”  Now everybody knows what a fragile and volatile cocoon of a world we live in … 

Read more


 “Blessings and Curses on the West Bank” (2002) 

… Joseph had complained to his father about some of their actions. The brothers convened a Bais Din, a rabbinical court. In this court, they determined that Joseph, by gossiping to their father, had violated one of the curses in the Torah, and as such, deserved to be punished… 

 Read more.


 “Let There Be Light” (2001) 

…This is a theory I like to call “religious atheism.” It conveniently allows one to believe in G-d without being angry with Him.  While some find comfort in this belief, it has no connection with Torah Judaism… 

Read more


 “Watch Out For WHAT Car?” (2000) 

… “An Aramean tried to destroy my father. (This is a reference to Laban of Aram who tried to destroy Jacob.) …  the reference to Laban is surprising …We know him to be a swindler. We see throughout his connection with Jacob that he did everything he could to take unfair advantage of him. Laban promised his daughter Rachel to Jacob as a wife, only to trick him into marrying her older sister Leah instead. He negotiated one salary with Jacob and paid him a lower one. But nowhere do we find any indication that Laban actually wanted to KILL Jacob… 

Read more.    


This is the weekly message at Copyright © 2000-2012 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.


Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel ( and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.


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Published in: on September 11, 2003 at 9:47 am  Leave a Comment  

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