Torah Weekly

For the week ending 13 September 2014 / 18 Elul 5774

Parshat Ki Tavo

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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When Bnei Yisrael dwell in the Land of Israel, its first fruits are to be taken to the Temple and given to the kohen in a ceremony expressing recognition that it is G-d who guides the history of the Jewish People throughout all ages. This passage forms one of the central parts of the Haggadah that we read at the Passover Seder. On the last day of Pesach of the fourth and seventh years of the seven-year shemitta cycle, a person must recite a disclosure stating that he has indeed distributed the tithes to the appropriate people in the prescribed manner. With this mitzvah Moshe concludes the commandments that G-d has told him to give to the Jewish People. Moshe exhorts them to walk in G-d's ways, because they are set aside as a treasured people to G-d. When Bnei Yisrael cross the Jordan River they are to make a new commitment to the Torah. Huge stones are to be erected and the Torah is to be written on them in the world's seventy primary languages, after which they are to be covered over with a thin layer of plaster. Half the tribes will stand on Mount Gerizim, and half on Mount Eval, and the levi'im will stand in a valley between the two mountains. There the levi'im will recite 12 commandments and all the people will answer "amen" to the blessings and the curses. Moshe then details the blessings that will be bestowed upon Bnei Yisrael. These blessings are both physical and spiritual. However if the Jewish People do not keep the Torah, Moshe details a chilling picture of destruction, resulting in exile and wandering among the nations.


Can You Please Lower Your Voice? I Can't Hear You!

“Then you will call out and say before the L-rd, your G-d…” (13-17).

An old friend of mine, a veteran actor from New York, once commented about public speaking, “Loud is good. Fast is bedda. Best of all is both tegedda.”

Of course, it’s not really true. Any public speaker will tell you that monotony, be it in tone, rhythm, or volume, is an instant sedative to an audience.

Sometimes the best way to be heard is to lower your voice rather than raising it.

Rashi explains that the word “Ve’anita” is an expression of “raising the voice” (Sota 32b). Rabbi Shlomo HaKohen Rabinovich (d. 1866) in his commentary on the Torah, Tiferet Shlomo, however, describes “Ve’anita” as an idiom of self-effacement. He references Parshat Bo (Shemot 10:3), when Moshe and Aharon say to Pharaoh,“Until when will you refuse to be humbled before me?” He comments that when a person seeks to address G-d, he must first humble himself and reflect on his lack of worth and on his lowliness. In other words, he interprets the verse thus: “When you humble yourself, then you can say before the L-rd, your G-d….”

This seems in direct contradiction to the Talmud’s interpretation that Rashi cites above, “raising the voice”.

Maybe that’s exactly the point:

The best way to be heard by G-d is by humbling yourself, for that “raises your voice” so the Almighty will listen to your request.

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