• Dvar for Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8)

    Of the many sub-topics in Parshat Ki Tavo, one especially noteworthy expression is when the Torah says, “G-d has not given you a heart to know, eyes to see, and ears to hear until this day” (Deuteronomy 29:3). Tradition (and Rashi) has it that Moshe gave Shevet Levi (the tribe of Levi) a Torah scroll, and the rest of the nation justifiably complained that they didn’t get one. Their complaint wasn’t that they didn’t get a scroll, but that future generations might have a problem with it. Upon hearing this complaint Moshe rejoiced. As Rabbi Liebowitz explains, Moshe was actually happy about a complaint because it showed how much the Jews valued the Torah and their bond with G-d so much, that they even thought about the future of that bond.

    If we look closer at the Passuk (verse) we’ll see it even clearer: G-d gave us eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to feel. Why does the Torah say that our hearts will KNOW? The answer is that if we feel something strongly enough, in our hearts we know it to be true. The Jews knew in their hearts that they had to protect the future of the Torah by safeguarding against potential diversions, perversions and distractions. The Torah is telling us that we must look into our hearts and do whatever it takes to preserve, maintain and grow as Jews, until our hearts know what’s right. And if we don’t know exactly what we need to do, we can use our eyes to look at customs of the past, our ears to listen to the existing rules and leaders, and our minds to develop our own Jewish niche, until our heart knows we’ve found it.

  • Dvar for Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8)

    Today. It’s a powerful word. It is used by doctors to define the exact moment their patients are to stop over-indulging, smoking, and drinking. It is used by account receivables to exact when they want their bills paid. Most importantly, it’s used by the Torah in describing what It wants from our attitudes. This week the Torah portion tells us: “Today Hashem commands you to perform these  decrees and statutes.” (26:16) There is obviously a deeper connotation. The commandments were not given on the day that Moshe read this week’s portion. They were given forty years prior. Also, at the end of the Parsha, Moshe calls the nation together and reminds them of the miraculous events that transpired during the exodus from Egypt. He discusses “the great wonders, signs, and miracles that your eyes beheld.” (29:1-3) Then he adds something shocking: “But Hashem did not give you a heart to understand or eyes to see until today.” What can the word “today” mean in this context?  Did the Jewish nation not have the heart to appreciate the value of splitting the Sea forty years back? Did they not revel in the miracle of Manna from its first earthly descent decades previously? How can Moshe say that they did not have eyes to understand until today?

    Rabbi M. Kamenetzky explains that perhaps Moshe is telling his nation the secret of eternal inspiration. One may experience miraculous events. They may even have the vision of a lifetime. However, they “will not have the heart to understand or the eyes to see” until that vision is today. Unless the inspiration lives with them daily, as it did upon the moment of impact. Whether tragedy or blessing, too often an impact becomes as dull as the movement of time itself. The promises, pledges, and commitments begin to travel slowly, hand-in-hand down a memory lane paved with long-forgotten inspiration. This week Moshe tells us that even after experiencing a most memorable wonder, we still may, “not have the heart to discern nor the eyes to see.” Until we add one major ingredient. Today.

  • Dvar for Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8)

    Of the many sub-topics in Parshat Ki Tavo, one especially noteworthy expression is when the Torah says, “G-d has not given you a heart to know, eyes to see, and ears to hear until this day” (Deuteronomy 29:3). Tradition (and Rashi) has it that Moshe gave Shevet Levi (the tribe of Levi) a Torah scroll, and the rest of the nation justifiably complained that they didn’t get one. Their complaint wasn’t that they didn’t get a scroll, but that future generations might have a problem with it. Upon hearing this complaint Moshe rejoiced. As Rabbi Liebowitz explains, Moshe was actually happy about a complaint because it showed how much the Jews valued the Torah and their bond with G-d so much, that they even thought about the future of that bond.

    If we look closer at the Passuk (verse) we’ll see it even clearer: G-d gave us eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to feel. Why does the Torah say that our hearts will KNOW? The answer is that if we feel something strongly enough, in our hearts we know it to be true. The Jews knew in their hearts that they had to protect the future of the Torah by safeguarding against potential diversions, perversions and distractions. The Torah is telling us that we must look into our hearts and do whatever it takes to preserve, maintain and grow as Jews, until our hearts know what’s right. And if we don’t know exactly what we need to do, we can use our eyes to look at customs of the past, our ears to listen to the existing rules and leaders, and our minds to develop our own Jewish niche, until our heart knows we’ve found it.

  • Daily Aliya for Ki Tavo, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Moshe reminds the Jews of all the miracles which have been their lot from when G‑d took them out of Egypt until that very day. He concludes by saying that it is therefore incumbent upon them to follow G‑d’s covenant.

  • Daily Aliya for Ki Tavo, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: This Aliya continues with the aforementioned blessings, and then launches a lengthy description of all the maledictions and suffering which will befall the Jews when they neglect the mitzvot.

    “But, if we don’t listen to G-d…” Thus begins the “Tochacha”. The admonition against disobedience of Torah. There is a custom of reading this part in a low voice because of how devastating it is to realize that G-d needs to warn us in such graphic terms, what will happen if the Jewish People do not remain faithful to Him. Regrettably, we need these harsh words of reproach. Unfortunately, they have turned out to be prophetic more than once. The Tochacha is contained within one Aliya (resulting in the longest Aliya in the Torah) so as not to prolong the discomfort in hearing it.

  • Daily Aliya for Ki Tavo, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The Jewish people are instructed to proclaim blessings and curses on Mts. Grizzim and Ebal. The elders of the Levite Tribe together with the Holy Ark stood between the two mountains, and six tribes were stationed atop each mountain. The Leviim and priests faced each mountain alternately, and stated the blessing and curses. At the end of the Aliya, we are told of the bountiful blessings which will shower us if we hearken to G‑d’s commandments.

    The setup for this entire exercise is curious: The fact that mountains represent blessings and curses is strange enough, but to have the tribes stand on one of the mountains is even stranger. If the mountains represent distinct and mutually exclusive choices we make in our lives, then why have (seemingly) random tribes stand on each of them? This requires much more research, but what strikes me in all of this is the similarity to many motivational speakers who make you visualize and verbalize your dreams and goals. It’s one thing to study, talk and imagine something, and quite another to be actively involved in it, probably why schools use this method to teach children about important concepts. Standing on these mountains makes it more real and mandates participation. This might explain the importance of Shul, regardless of actual participation in the davening (service), much like the tribes standing on the mountain and answering “Amen”, their attendance (and ours in Shul) does more than we may know or realize.

  • Dvar for Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8)

    Of the many sub-topics in Parshat Ki Tavo, one especially noteworthy expression is when the Torah says, “G-d has not given you a heart to know, eyes to see, and ears to hear until this day” (Deuteronomy 29:3). Tradition (and Rashi) has it that Moshe gave Shevet Levi (the tribe of Levi) a Torah scroll, and the rest of the nation justifiably complained that they didn’t get one. But their complaint wasn’t that they didn’t get a scroll, but that future generations might have a problem with it. Upon hearing this complaint Moshe rejoiced. As Rabbi Liebowitz explains, he was actually happy about a complaint because it showed that the Jews valued the Torah and their bond with G-d so much that they even thought about the future of that bond.

    If we look closer at the Passuk (verse) we’ll see it even clearer: G-d gave us eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to feel. Why does the Torah here say that our hearts will know, instead of feel? The answer is that if we feel something strongly enough, in our hearts we know it to be true. The Jews knew in their hearts that they had to protect the future of the Torah by safeguarding against potential diversions. The Torah is telling us that we must look into our hearts, and do whatever it takes to preserve, maintain and grow as Jews, until our hearts know what’s right. And if we don’t know exactly what we need to do, we must always use our eyes to look at customs of the past, our ears to listen to the existing rules, and our minds to develop our own Jewish niche, until our heart knows we’ve found it.

  • Daily Aliya for Ki Tavo, Revii (4th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The Jews are instructed to gather large stones when they cross the Jordan River. These stones were to be plastered, and the entire Torah was to be engraved upon them. Another set of stones was also to be inscribed with the entire Torah, and be set on Mt. Ebal.

    Moshe, the kohanim and Leviim, say to all the people, “on this very day you have become G-d’s nation”. Rashi says that the Torah emphasized “this very day” to teach us that our commitment to Torah and mitzvot should be as if we have entered into a covenant with G-d on this very day – everyday. We are challenged to refreshen our Judaism constantly.

  • Daily Aliya for Ki Tavo, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Moshe admonishes the Jews to observe G‑d’s commandments; reminding them that they have selected Him to be their god, and He, in turn, has chosen them to be His holy and treasured nation.

    To follow in G-d’s footsteps means to develop and practice various traits that are attributed to G-d. As He is called merciful, so too shall we be merciful. As He is called holy, so too must we behave in ways that lead to our becoming holy. From general traits, we can also use specific examples – as G-d clothes the naked, visits the sick, buries the dead, comforts the grieving… so too must we do those kinds of things.

  • Daily Aliya for Ki Tavo Sheni (2nd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: During Temple times, Jewish farmers were required to separate from their produce several different tithes. These were distributed to the priests, the Levites, the poor, and one tithe which was eaten by its owners in Jerusalem. The different tithes were not all given each year, rather there was a three-year cycle. In this Aliya, the Torah gives the procedure to be followed on the day before Passover during those years which followed the conclusion of a cycle. The farmer was to declare that he has performed all his tithing duties and then beseeches G‑d to bless His people and the Land.

    The Passuk says: “I have not transgressed Your mitzvot, and I have not forgotten…” Says the Sfat Emet – I have not forgotten that You are the One Who has commanded me to do the mitzvot. Furthermore, the statement implies that the individual did only that which he was required to do, and did not (often) go beyond the call of duty. Or perhaps we did a mitzva sort of like it is supposed to be done, but maybe without full intent (i.e. prayers). This is an important message as we approach Rosh HaShana, when we have to answer for what – and how – we do mitzvot.

Back to top