Ki Tavo 5769

Posted on March 23, 2011

by Judah Kerbel

September 5, 2009/16 Elul 5769

What’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom? Is there a difference between a person who is knowledgeable in an aspect of life and a person that is wise?

In the classic 1930s movie The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy meets three friends – the scarecrow, the tin man, and the lion – who seek a heart, a brain, and courage, respectively. While in my opinion, “knowing stuff,” knowledge of things, only requires a brain, wisdom requires all three of the above mentioned items combined. The essentials are in fact a brain, constituting knowledge; a heart, constituting emotions; and courage.

In our Torah portion, Ki Tavo, after Moshe outlines all of the grotesque curses to come with disobedience of the covenant, he reminds the people of all of the miracles and signs they saw from God. Yet it is not until this day that they had the heart to know, eyes to see, and ears to hear. What does it mean to have a “heart to know” – isn’t the heart usually associated with feelings, not knowledge?

Rashi comments on this phrase lev la-da’at as “l’hakir chasdei ha-Kadosh Barukh Hu u’lidabek bo. A heart to know is to recognize the acts of kindness of God and to cling to God. In other words, it’s not until after 40 years of wandering that they have the maturity, experience, and the heart to understand the significance of these miracles, that God is with them. Think about all of the times that they complained about lack of food and water, that it was better in Egypt, not to mention the Golden Calf incident after God had commanded the Israelites in the Ten Commandments to not make any graven images of God or other “gods.” Was there a significant moment where the Israelites demonstrated true loyalty to God and put their full trust in God?

Today, too, our society is caught up in complaining and not appreciating the richness of life. It constantly cries “FML” and “my life is average.” But no, life is great! In daily life, we need the power of knowledge to be open-minded, hearts for having the compassion that carious us through our lives, and courage to confront daily obstacles with love and understand how lucky we are to wake up every morning to the things that form the positives of life and to say Modeh Ani. This is true wisdom, this is what the Israelites lacked in their forty-year journey, this is lev la-da’at.

May we all have the strength in our days to make the best of our days and of the gifts we receive from God daily.