Torah Weekly

For the week ending 24 September 2005 / 20 Elul 5765

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.


Sign of the times

"You have distinguished Hashem today to be a G-d, and to walk in His ways" (26:17)

Once there was a man who had to journey many hundreds of miles. Having never ventured so far from home he was concerned that he might stray from the trail, become lost and fall prey to bandits or wild animals. He sought the advice of an experienced traveler. Maybe he should take maps and a compass? The traveler told him not to worry; all he needed to do was to make sure he memorized the name of his destination. And along the trail that he sought to follow he would find signposts clearly indicating his destination. The traveler set out with confidence. And sure enough, before long he came to a fork in the road. He looked up and saw his destination clearly indicated. Smiling to himself he took the road that was signposted.

And thus it continued, day after day, whenever the traveler would come to a crossroads, he would look up at the signpost and take the road that led to his destination. He had been traveling for about a week when one day he came to a crossroads of five different trails. This one, however, was without a signpost. He was gripped with panic which way to go? He had planned his rations carefully and he knew that he only had enough water to get him to his next destination; there wasnt sufficient to allow him to return. As fear started to gnaw at his stomach, suddenly he saw that he had been wrong. There was a signpost at this crossroads after all. It had been uprooted and was lying on its side. He rushed over to the signpost and started to replace it in its hole. His elation was short-lived however; for he realized abruptly that he had no way of knowing which way the signpost was supposed to point.

He sank to the ground dejected and despondent. Then, it struck him. He jumped up, took the signpost and oriented the name of the place from where he had come to the direction from which he had been walking. Now he knew precisely which road to take.

The Jewish People are embarked on a world historical journey. In times such as ours where nothing seems certain, its easy to become despondent. Where is G-d? Where is sanity? Where are we going?

If you know where youve come from, you know where youre going.

The Jewish People have been given the best travel guide known to man. Its called the Torah. G-d wrote the Torah in such a way that it contains all the instructions that the Jewish People will ever need to reach their destination. The word Torah itself comes from the word meaning "instructions." The mitzvot of the Torah are our signposts in a bewildering world. If when we come to lifes crossroads we pick our direction at random, we have little chance of success. However, if we orient ourselves on our past, our future is assured.

If you know where youve come from, you know where youre going.

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