The Chafetz Project -
Melekhet Machashevet Citations
Ki Tavo

    The following are online citations from Moshe Chafetz's 1710 work Melekhet Machashevet, found on the internet.

    Not all links are still active, but relevant text is excerpted here in full.

    Parshat Ki Tavo
    (From Deuteronomy)

    Torah on the Web - Virtual Beit Midrash (by Rav David Silverberg)

    Towards the end of Parashat Ki-Tavo we encounter among the more perplexing verses in Chumash: "You have seen all that God did before your very eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his courtiers and to his whole country... Yet to this day God has not given you a heart to know or eyes to see or ears to hear" (29:1,3). What does Moshe mean by this rather bold a, that Benei Yisrael lacked the heart to understand etc. until that very day? What did the people recognize or appreciate at this point, at the conclusion of their forty-year journey, that they had not earlier?

    The Melekhet Machshevet (Rav Moshe Chefetz, 16th century, Italy; cited in Nechama Leibowitz's Studies) explains that Benei Yisrael could appreciate the wonders and miracles performed on their behalf only after the fact, once they prepare to settle and build a country through primarily natural means. Their retrospective assessment of the wilderness experience takes on an entirely new dimension particularly at this point, when they stand on the brink of conquering and establishing their homeland. Rav Chefetz writes: "We do not appreciate them [miracles] until they are far away from us, since familiarity breeds contempt and they are regarded as natural and not supernatural phenomena." Thus, only at the conclusion of the forty-year period could Benei Yisrael be considered as possessing the necessary tools to properly appreciate what God has done for them over the previous several decades.

    The Wise Bard (2007) - JTS Weekly Torah Commentary by R. Marc Wolf

    The sixteenth-century Italian commentator Moshe Hefetz writes on this verse in his commentary on Ki Tavo, 'You witnessed all those great wonders but only appreciated their full significance just now, at this time, after they had receded from view, as if you had to this point lacked sight and hearing' (Milekhet Mahshevet, Warsaw Ed., 315). Hefetz is observing that the people of Israel did not understand the miracles because they needed distance from them. It was their time in the desert, wandering, gaining perspective, and experience and growing as a people that allowed them to appreciate the full significance of the miracles. ...

    Wise Bard quoted this from the Jewish Theological Seminary's Chancellor's Commentary (5762), who here compares the Israelites to the characters in Stephen Sondheim's fairy tale musical "Into the Woods."

    First Narayever Congregation (Toronto) (5764)

    Deut.29:3 - For 40 years, God showed them otot and moftim, yet God didn't give them a lev ladaat or eynaim lir'ot or oznaim lishmoa - ad hayom hazeh.

    2. Theological problem of free will - how could God interfere with their understanding, causing them to misunderstand? Was the Exodus generation responsible for its faithfulness, if God didn't let them truly perceive?

    7. Moshe Hefez, 16th c. Italian commentator: you saw the miracles every day and came to take them for granted. Now, looking back, you're able to appreciate their significance. Problem: doesn't deal with the causality to God.

    Mount Scopus Memorial College (2008)

    "You have seen everything Hashem did in the land of Egypt... those great signs and wonders. But Hashem did not give you a heart to know, or eyes to see, or ears to hear, until this day."

    Moshe Hefez (15th C, Italy) says that often the beneficiary of a miracle is the last to realise and appreciate it, only gifted with clarity after the passage of time. The inability to "see" would therefore be attributed to the deadening effect of familiarity and habit, not stubbornness.


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