Ki Tavo 5770

Posted on March 23, 2011

by Jamie Schwartz

As I was walking through the halls of my school today something caught my eye. As the person in front of me reached to kiss the mezuzah on the doorpost, he did not realize that his hand never actually touched the mezuzah – therefore not technically performing the custom. I noticed this happen two or three times and it got me thinking about how often we do things without kavana (intent). Think about it, how many times a day do you do something without considering the reasoning behind it? We do these type of things automatically, and often times don’t pay attention to the “why?”

In this week’s parsha, parshat Ki Tavo, the Jewish people are commanded to bring the first sacrifices required of them once they enter the land of Yisrael. The parsha then continues with a detailed recap on tithings, and then the parsha concludes with a list of brachot and tochachot, blessings and curses, which would befall them if they do not follow Hashem’s mitzvot.

In perek 26, passuk 13, Hashem addresses the people and instructs them to vocalize that they have neither transgressed nor forgotten any of his mitzvot. Looking closely at this verse, it seems repetitive saying that the people have neither transgressed nor forgotten. In the book Sefat Emet, Yehuah Aryeh Leib of Ger wonders about the seeming repetition in this verse. To him it seems obvious that if we have not transgressed we have clearly not forgotten, so why does the Torah add in this extra phrase? He explains that these extra words serve the purpose of reminding us to be aware of the mitzvot we are performing as we perform them, because they tend to become so routine to us that we lose sight of the meaning behind them as we do them.

Just as the person walking through the halls of my school, there are times in which each of us loses sight of the intent behind things we do on a daily basis, and from this parsha we can learn to pay closer attention to this as we go throughout our day. What is the purpose of us saying a bracha before we eat? Is it just so that we can eat, or rather is it to thank Hashem for the food and the nourishment He has provided us with? When we ask forgiveness for a wrongdoing and say “sorry,” do we say it because we mean it – or because we want to exempt ourselves from the mistake that we made? Furthermore, when we use foul language what are we trying to accomplish? Do we really mean the words we say, or are we simply frustrated and try to rid of the frustration through the use of insensitive words?

This is a powerful lesson which we can learn from this parsha; not only do we have to do the mitzvot, but we must do so with the awareness that they are from Hashem. We need to think while we act and make certain that our actions reflect the type of person, USYer, and dugma we want to be.