Blog Ki Tavo Elul 21 5778 כִּי-תָבוֹא בלוג, כ”א אלול תשע”ח

This is a time of preparation before the High Holidays when we search our heart and ask the Creator to show us what is getting in the way of our having a better relationship with Him. During this past year I have been focusing upon the basic constitution of the people of Israel, the Ten Commandments. These cover all we need for a wonderful life. In this portion Ki Tavo, Moshe is warning the second generation about the consequences of not observing them. We read in Chapter 27:10…. “you must listen to the LORD your God and observe the commandments and the ordinances which I am laying down for you today”. Today is written to emphasize what we receive and what we give back. Moshe Rabenu is reminding all future generations about what is important, that we are to hear and obey so that we would have a wonderful blessed and happy life.

What happens when you grow up in a home where everything is handed to you on a silver platter? You start to believe that you deserve everything, an attitude of entitlement. There are several types of entitlement. Some play the game of “poor me”. They love people to pity them and use it as a weapon to control others. Some live a life of suffering, making their diseases into gods. They may not realize that they live for their disease and when they begin to get well, they look for ways to become ill again because pity is power. The Creator is teaching us that we can be rich or poor, sick or well but no matter the state we are in, we have responsibility. The attitudes of self-pity or entitlement hold no value in His eyes.

With the tochacha תוכחה admonition or warning, the Creator begins with idolatry because there is only one Bore Olam. When we replace Him with anything, we lose our place within Israel. There are many Jews who say that they are part of Israel, but they are not because they have abandoned the Creator. The Creator allows things to happen in their lives in an effort to bring them back, but He will never force them. He gave us free will so that we can never blame Him for our lot in life. Sadly, I have known many people who say that they no longer believe in the Creator because of the injustice in the world or that if He really did exist He would never have allowed the Holocaust to happen. My answer to them is, “Have you read the Torah?” He warned that if we do not follow His commandments, we are the ones who reap the consequences of our behavior. We are our own worst enemies. He wants the best, not the worst for us. When we go through hard times, that’s usually when we look to Him for help and are closer to Him but sadly, how many of us forget Him during the good times.

That is why is so important especially at this time of year to be honest with ourselves. Are we really walking in the path that the Creator set down for us? Do we give back in commensurate to what we have received? Do we serve in the community in which we grow and support each other? Or is the Creator a pocket god who we turn to only in a moment of need? Little by little we remove ourselves from the presence of the Giver of life. Form has far less value than intention, yet most people prefer to wear a uniform without assuming the responsibility that comes with the uniform.

The Creator created us in His likeness and image. As the crown of His creation, He gave us capabilities far above any other creature…to think, to do, to act, to be responsible to take care of His creation. When we fail in our role, there are consequences of which very few speak. Few want to accept their own wrongdoings but prefer to blame others, even to the point of blaming the Creator Himself.

In this portion, Moshe is warning us as he did in the book of Vayikra in Bechukotai, where there were 49 injunctions; here there are 98. He is doubly warning this second generation (who did not experience the slavery in Egypt) that the principles didn’t change, and they were not entitled to the land; they would have the responsibility to fight for it and work hard to keep it. It is easy to receive an inheritance, but it takes work in order to hold onto it. The Creator has given us the values and principles of the Torah as a wonderful inheritance and it is our responsibility to hold onto them.

At the end of the portion, there is a quote in Deut. 29:3… “But the LORD has not given you a heart to understand, eyes to see or ears to hear.” Our great teacher and Rabbi Yeshua repeated this to us: “these people have eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear”. It looks as if the onus was upon the Creator but that is not what it is saying. Why has the Creator given us a heart, eyes and ears? Because, if we have been able to understand and could have seen all that He has done for us, what is wrong with us? At the beginning of chapter 29 it says, “And Moshe called all Israel together and said to them: you have seen everything that the LORD did before your eyes in Egypt, to Pharaoh and to his servants and to this whole country, the great ordeals which you yourselves witnessed, those signs and the great wonders. But until today, the LORD has not given you a heart to understand, eyes to see or ears to hear.” If you saw how hard your parents worked to provide for you when you were growing up, is theirs not an example to follow? Or do you think that you are so privileged that now you can just sit back, do nothing but allow them to continue to provide for you forever?

How do we learn? How do we grow? How can we advance in life? There are parents who do not teach their children responsibility nor allow them to grow up. They spoil them to the point that they don’t even learn how to boil water. Moshe Rabenu is telling them that they need to work hard to prosper in the land they were being given.

I hope that we learn our responsibility, that as we approach the High Holidays, we take a look at our lives over this past year. Has it been profitable or loss? Have I been able to influence people properly; have I helped and given time to serve others, or have I lived only for myself. We spend time worrying about superficial things while closing our eyes to those in need such as financially or illnesses. When one of us is suffering we all suffer; when one rejoices we all rejoice. That is a healthy community.