Ki Tavo 5762

Posted on March 23, 2011

by Mimi Arbeit

Parshat Ki Tavo discusses the relationship between God and the newborn nation of Israel. The parshat opens by introducing the offering of the first fruits. Then, a new covenant is formed between God and the Jewish people: God will protect them as long as they remain loyal. Moses gives the people four ceremonies that they will perform upon entering the land in order to remind themselves of their covenant with God. First, they will write the Law on twelve stones at Mt. Ebal. Second, they will erect an Altar there. Third, they will ratify the covenant on Ebal and Gerizim. Fourth, the Levites will pronounce the twelve dooms– the consequences of disobeying the commandments.

In order to better understand the message behind the twelve dooms, we can divide them into three categories. The first type of doom falls upon Israel when they will not listen to the voice of the Lord your God, to observe to do all His commandments (Deut. 28:15). Following is a list of suffering such as loss of crops, sick beasts, and illness. The second type of doom falls upon Israel when they did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart (28:47). The following list is even worse than before, including war and cannibalism. The last type of doom falls upon Israel when they will not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awful Name (28:58). Then, God will strike them with every sickness and every plague not yet recorded, and seek to destroy them.

In summary, failure to obey the commandments extracts a certain level of suffering, while failure to serve God joyfully extracts even more suffering, and failure to fear God deserves ultimate destruction. This pattern shows that Judaism is rooted in feelings. If someone slips in their observance of the commandments, then his joy in serving God may eventually bring him back to his righteous path. If someone loses his inner joy, then at least his fear of God shows that he still acknowledges God’s power, and with time he may come to love that power once again. But if someone no longer fears God, no longer accepts His reign over all of creation, no longer reveres His everlasting glory– that is the ultimate betrayal.

We learn from Parshat Ki Tavo that our true connection to God lies in our hearts, in our emotions. When we love God and fear God, then our faith is secure. From there, we progress to serving God with joy and to observing the commandments. USY embodies the path between these last two steps. We come together on the premise of our Judaism, our dedication to God. And in coming together, we try to develop an atmosphere of joy and happiness in which we can celebrate serving God together. From there, we hope that individuals will be inspired to challenge themselves to increase their personal level of observance beyond USY events. We encourage each other to dine at Kosher restaurants, to keep Shabbat, and to learn Torah. But we know that the most important thing is that we revere God, that we love God and each other, and that we enjoy doing it. Shabbat Shalom!