Parshat Ki Tavo
When Bnei Yisrael dwell in the Land of Israel, its first fruits are to be taken to the Temple and given to the kohen in a ceremony expressing recognition that it is G-d who guides the history of the Jewish People throughout all ages. This passage forms one of the central parts of the Haggadah that we read at the Passover Seder. On the last day of Pesach of the fourth and seventh years of the seven-year shemitta cycle, a person must recite a disclosure stating that he has indeed distributed the tithes to the appropriate people in the prescribed manner. With this mitzvah Moshe concludes the commandments that G-d has told him to give to the Jewish People. Moshe exhorts them to walk in G-d's ways, because they are set aside as a treasured people to G-d. When Bnei Yisraelcross the Jordan River they are to make a new commitment to the Torah. Huge stones are to be erected and the Torah is to be written on them in the world's seventy primary languages, after which they are to be covered over with a thin layer of plaster. Half the tribes will stand on Mount Gerizim, and half on Mount Eval, and the levi'im will stand in a valley between the two mountains. There the levi'im will recite 12 commandments and all the people will answer "amen" to the blessings and the curses. Moshe then details the blessings that will be bestowed upon Bnei Yisrael. These blessings are both physical and spiritual. However if the Jewish People do not keep the Torah, Moshe details a chilling picture of destruction, resulting in exile and wandering among the nations.
To The Lifeboat
“All these curses will come upon you and pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you will not have hearkened to the voice of the L-rd, your G-d, to observe His commandments and decrees that He commanded you.” (28:45)
I once asked my Rabbi why I, alone among my friends, had chosen to return to the faith of our fathers. My friends, almost without exception, had married non-Jews and were busy parenting non-Jewish children.
He replied to me with two words in Hebrew “Zechut avot.” The merit of the fathers. “The Torah must have been very dear to someone in your family,” he said. “Someone, your grandfather, your grandmother, davened very hard that they should have Jewish grandchildren.”
Imagine you just bought a refrigerator. It turns up in a wooden crate. You take out the fridge and throw away the wood. Imagine you’re on a sinking boat with the same refrigerator. You take the wood and throw away the refrigerator. When most of the Jewish World was reaching for a new fridge — someone in my past was hanging onto the wood for dear life.
“It is a tree of life to those who hold onto it, and its supporters are praiseworthy.”We say these words from Mishle (The Book of Proverbs) every time we put the Torah back into the Holy Ark. Maybe we say them then as we are putting the Torah away and out of sight to remind us what the Torah really means to the Jewish People.
It is our plank of wood in a stormy sea. It’s not so much that the Jewish People have kept the Torah — rather the Torah has kept us.
The month of Elul is a time when we rededicate ourselves to the Torah and its values. We must hold onto it for dear life. For it is our only unsinkable lifeboat.
- Sources: Rabbi Moshe Newman