Ki Savo – A Reason to Learn Sefer HaChinuch

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The bulk of this week’s Torah portion of Ki Savo discusses the blessings and curses. It lists a number of offenses for which one will receive a curse for transgressing them, and concludes the list by stating:
אָר֗וּר אֲשֶׁ֧ר לֹא־יָקִ֛ים אֶת־דִּבְרֵ֥י הַתּוֹרָֽה־הַזֹּ֖את לַעֲשׂ֣וֹת אוֹתָ֑ם וְאָמַ֥ר כׇּל־הָעָ֖ם אָמֵֽן׃ {פ}
“Cursed be whoever will not uphold the terms of this Torah and observe them. —And all the people shall say, Amen” (Devarim 27:26).

This pasuk cannot be referring to anyone who just transgresses the Torah, because virtually everyone would be cursed for doing so, since everyone sins on some level at some point in their lives. In fact, the Ramban specifically says that if one eats pig or a bug out of physical desire, or was too lazy to perform the mitzvah of lulav or sukkah, then he is not included in this curse, for the pasuk does not say “one who does not perform the terms of the Torah;” rather it says, “whoever will not uphold the terms of this Torah.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
 The Ramban, and in the same vein the Rabbeinu Bachye, which this dvar Torah will be focusing on, shines light onto what “uphold the terms of this Torah” means. Rabbeinu Bachye says that this curse “includes all the mitzvos in the Torah. And the explanation of the pasuk is ‘who will not uphold’ the mitzvos in his heart, meaning acknowledging them and believing that every single one of them are true. There is nothing lacking in any of them which would not be beneficial for the body and soul, and not one of the mitzvos are a waste. This is what it means, ‘who will not uphold,’ to do them, that they are established in one’s heart with strong faith, that they are befitting to be fulfilled, for all of them are logical to those that understand and fare to those that are intelligent.” (Click here for Hebrew text.
(Rabbeinu Bachye quotes another interpretation based on a Talmud Yerushalmi (5:7) that says that this pasuk refers to a chazzan not doing hagba, lifting up the Torah, after reading from the Torah, and Sfardim also do it before reading, in order for the congregation to see the words of the Torah. Parenthetically, according to the second interpretation of this curse, it is very limited in scope and it is designed to teach us the importance of the concept that seeing is believing. Just listening to the Torah being read at shul is not enough; seeing the words inside reinforces how real it is, and this must be done to ensure belief in its truth and reality).

The first interpretation of Rabbeinu Bachye is also limiting. One is only cursed if he does not authentically and totally believe that every single mitzvah of the Torah is Divinely true and has a useful purpose, physically and spiritually. Nothing is lacking or extra in any mitzva.

However, what if one is lacking this belief for some mitzvos, even for just one, or one is not 100% confident in his belief system? What should he do?

It is apparent from Rabbeinu Bachye that one has an obligation to learn in depth, b’iyun, in order to understand the logic and how straight and fair each mitzvah is. The more clarity and appreciation of the profundity of Torah one has, the better the understanding and the stronger the belief. Even learning Sefer HaChinuch, which gives reasons behind the 613 mitzvos, is a good way to strengthen one’s belief system. Anything proper that will authenticate Torah and Mitzvos!