Ki Tavo(Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8)
Ki Tavo 5772
GOOD MORNING! Where were you on 9/11 when the airplanes hit the Twin Towers? There are very few events in a person's lifetime where one has vivid recall of what he was doing when it occurred. In my lifetime -- when John F. Kennedy was assassinated and when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon. But, more important than where you were -- how did it change your life?
When the terrorists brought down the Twin Towers, Rabbi Hershel Becker was greatly impacted by the last messages of the victims. Amidst smoke and fire, seeing that the end was near, people frantically reached out to family and friends, "I'm not going to make it out alive. I love you."
As the towers shook, so did he. Why do we save our expressions of love for dramatic moments or tragic good-byes? He made a commitment to find a way to improve relationships and to share the ideas with others.
The Torah is the blueprint for the world. The Midrash tells us that the Almighty looked into the Torah and created the world. The word Torah means "Instruction" -- "Toras Chaim" means instructions for life. Rabbi Becker set out to mine the Torah for practical instructions.
Rabbi Becker published his treasure-trove in a book to help us -- Love Peace: Blueprints for Lasting Relationships (available at your local Jewish bookstore or at www.jewishblueprints.org). The title comes from the mishna in Pirke Avos 1:12 from the great sage, Hillel: "Be amongst the disciples of Aharon -- love peace, pursue peace; love people and bring them closer to Torah."
In Psalms 89:3, King David tells us "A world of loving kindness shall be built." Therefore, Rabbi Becker structures his book into four sections as a guide for building a world of loving kindness and loving relationships: 1) The Introduction -- drawing analogies between the construction of buildings the building of relationships 2) The Blueprints -- citing lessons from the Torah charting practical lessons with questions to prompt discussions (see an example in this week's Dvar Torah) 3) The Specifications -- special elements integral to particular relationships 4) The Building Code -- containing source material from the Torah, Talmud and Commentaries.
The Torah commands us, "... You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18) and "You shall go in His (the Almighty's) ways" (Deuteronomy 38:9). These are the core directives guiding us in our relationships with others. While these directives seem broad in nature, the Torah and the Talmud specify the actions and attitudes we must strive for in our daily life. It is not just our actions, but also our attitude and emotions that are important.
The Ktav V'hakabala gives a list of behaviors to guide us in treating others as we wish to be treated:
Torah Portion of the Week
This week's portion includes: Bringing to the Temple as an offering the first fruits of the Seven Species special to the Land of Israel, Declaration of tithes, the Almighty designating the Jewish people as His treasured people (Deut. 26:16 -19), the command to set up in the Jordan River and then on Mount Ebal large stones which had the Torah written upon them in 70 languages, the command to have a public ratification of the acceptance of the Law from Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal; the Torah then sets forth the blessings for following the Law and the curses for not following it, and concludes with Moshe's final discourse. Verse 28:46 tells us the importance of serving the Almighty with "joy and a good heart." The last verse of the portion instructs us "You shall fulfill the words of this covenant and do them so that you will succeed in all that you do!"
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adapted from Love Peace by Rabbi Hershel Becker
We learn the commandment to emulate the Almighty from the verse:
"... and you shall go in His ways" (Deut. 28:9)
What does it mean to emulate the Almighty? We must emulate His attributes -- just as He is compassionate, merciful, and holy, so should we be in our dealings.
This is not the first time these words appear in the Torah. In Deuteronomy 11:22 the Torah tells us, "Go in all His ways." Why then is the source of the commandment to emulate the Almighty drawn from our verse?
The answer comes from looking at the complete verse, "God will raise you up for Himself as a holy nation as He promised to you, when you observe the mitzvot of your God and go in His ways." Rabbi Ibn Ezra elucidates: "observe" means "in your heart"; "go" refers to "action". The mitzva is not to "act" mercifully, but to "be" merciful and compassionate when you act. This additional lesson is the reason the mitzva to emulate the Almighty comes from our verse.
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Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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