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 Yisrael cross 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.
“And G-d has distinguished you today to be for Him a treasured people…” (26:18)
I must be very innocent.
I always thought of the Olympic athletes as being locked up in the Olympic Village dedicating every ounce of their energy to winning that elusive Gold Medal; that the atmosphere of the Olympic Village was somewhere between a private school for girls in the fifties and an open prison.
This picture could not be further from the truth.
Apparently, the Olympic Village was a hotbed of immorality, and the Greek celebration of the physical did not end on the playing field.
I couldn’t help being struck by an amazing parallel.
It says in the book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), "This opposed to this, G-d created."
G-d creates everything in this world together with its polar opposite. Light and dark. Hot and cold. Good and evil.
The closing ceremony of the Olympics in London was a staggering display of theatrics that the ancient Greeks would certainly have applauded. It took place in front of 100,000 people. That number struck a chord with me, because it was also 100,000 people who had come together a mere eleven days prior to celebrate the completion of the twelfth seven-year cycle of the completion of the Daf Yomi, the daily learning of one page of the Babylonian Talmud.
And interestingly enough, it appears that the greatest problem that faced the organizers of that elevated event was how to ensure the modest separation of men and women to ensure the holiness of the occasion. A problem that apparently was not very high on the list of the organizers of the Olympics.
Jews may not be perfect, and sometimes it's difficult to see why we are a 'treasured people.' But then sometimes something comes along shows that buried treasure.