In this week’s parshah, Ki Savo, Bnei Yisrael arrive at Har Gerizim and Har Eval. These mountains were vital to the Bnei Yisrael’s acceptance of the Torah since its acceptance is done with both a brachah for when you keep it and a curse for when you do not. These two mountains were representative of this, Har Gerizim, of the blessings and Har Eval, of the curses. Half of the nation stood on each mountain while Shevet Levi read the blessings and curses down below. Following each blessing and curse, the whole nation answered “אָמֵן” to show their acceptance of it.
I would like to focus for now on the curses. A very enlightening drasha is learned out from the tenth curse. “אָרוּר מַכֵּה רֵעֵהוּ בַּסָּתֶר” “Cursed is the one who strikes his friend in secret…” (27:24). Rashi explains that this is in reference to Lashon Hara. Since your friend doesn’t know that you are harming him, the pasuk says that you are doing it in “secret”. However, the next part of Rashi is where we will focus. Rashi quotes from Rabbi Moshe Hadarshan that there are eleven curses listed here, one for each of the shevatim besides for Shevet Shimon. He explains that since in Parshas V’Zos Habrachah, when Moshe was blessing each shevet before he died, he did not bless Shimon, he did not want to say a curse for Shimon here along with everyone else.
There are a few questions which arise from this. First off, why would Rashi bring this down by the tenth curse? He should either bring it by the first one to tell me that the curses are represented by each shevet, or list it by the last one to explain to me why there were only eleven, but why by the tenth? And what is the connection between Shimon and Lashon Hara that Rashi brought this vort down here? Lastly, if you count the curses there are actually twelve! The curses are written in pesukim 15-26 with one curse in each pasuk, so Rabbi Moshe Hadarshan’s drasha does not even start!
The Sifsei Chachamim answers these questions with a complicated limud. He explains that if I read in the Torah the eleven curses without Rabbi Moshe Hadarshan’s explanation, I would have assumed that the shevet without the curse would be Shevet Reuven. Why? Because of the curse in pasuk 20, “אָרוּר שֹׁכֵב עִם אֵשֶׁת אָבִיו” “Cursed is the one who lies with his father’s wife…”. The pasuk in Parshas Vayishlach says that Reuven laid with Bilhah, one of his father’s wives (Bereishis 35:22). What actually happened was that Yaakov used to spend one night with each of his wives, always favoring Rachel over the rest. When she died, Yaakov started favoring Bilhah since she was Rachel’s maidservant. Reuven took this as an insult to his mother, Leah, who he felt should now take over as the main wife. So he moved Yaakov’s bed from Bilhah’s tent to Leah’s. For this act, he was punished by having the Torah compare this to his actually having laid with Bilhah. So if any of the tribes were going to be left out of the curses, it was Reuven. Therefore, we have to say that Shimon is actually the tribe left out.
So why did Rashi bring this explanation here as opposed to another pasuk? Because now that I see that there is a curse for someone who speaks Lashon Hara, there is another tribe I would suspect would be left out besides for Reuven. In Parshas Vayeishev, Yosef is said to have spoken Lashon Hara (37:2). So now I have reason to suspect two tribes, Reuven and Yosef, of being left out of the curses on Har Eval. So Rabbi Moshe Hadarshan tells me that really it is Shimon and he tells me by this pasuk specifically to show that it is not Yosef. The reason he feels the need to say it by the pasuk of Yosef’s sin rather than Reuven’s is because the pasuk of Lashon Hara could potentially be explained differently while Reuven’s pasuk cannot.
Still, if you count up the curses, there are twelve? So what is the question to begin with, none of the tribes were left out? The last curse is as follows, “אָרוּר אֲשֶׁר לֹא יָקִים אֶת דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת לַעֲשׂוֹת אוֹתָם” “Cursed is the one who will not uphold the words of this Torah, to perform them…” (27:26). The Sifsei Chachamim explains that this curse includes all the other curses that we listed. The reason we had to list all the curses instead of just this one is what Rabbi Moshe Hadarshan says, one curse was said for each tribe except for Shevet Shimon. Why? Since Moshe did not bless him at the end of his life, he did not want to curse him here.