Torah Weekly

For the week ending 24 August 2002 / 16 Elul 5762

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 Hashem 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 Hashem has told him to give to the Jewish People. Moshe exhorts them to walk in Hashem's ways, because they are set aside as a treasured people to Hashem. 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.


Where Angels Fear To Tread

The stranger who is with you will ascend higher and higher, while you descend lower and lower (28:43)

In the book of Genesis, Yaakov had a prophetic vision of angels ascending and descending a ladder from the ground to heaven.

These angels werent Hollywood extras with fluorescent tubes over their heads. They were spirit guardians, the protecting forces of four great kingdoms. Four kingdoms that would in time dominate and exile the Jewish People. Chronologically they are Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome.

In his dream Yaakov saw the angel of Babylon ascend the ladder 70 steps before descending. The Jewish People were in the Babylonian exile for 70 years. The protecting angel of the Persian and Median Empire then climbed up 52 steps on the ladder before he descended. The Jewish People were in exile in Persia for 52 years. Following that the angel of the Greek Empire climbed 180 rungs.

Finally, the protecting angel of the Roman Empire climbed up the ladder, but he didn't come down. Yaakov feared that this final exile would never end.

However, there are some places where even angels should fear to tread.

G-d had promised Yaakov that even if he [Rome] will rise up like an eagle and make his nest among the stars, even from there I will bring him down. (Ovadia 1:4)

We are still in that final exile, in the softly asphyxiating embrace of Romes spiritual heirs, and the Jewish People clings to but a small morsel of this world. But however high rides this seemingly invincible fourth empire, it will eventually come crashing down.

The stranger who is with you will ascend higher and higher, while you descend lower and lower

When describing the ascent of the nations over the Jewish People in this weeks portion the Torah uses the expression higher and higher. However, when the positions are reversed, the Torah states you shall only be above.

The Jewish People can fall very far. Our history is bloodstained physically and spiritually with many disasters. Many have been the times when the world claimed that we were "out for the count. Yet, however high the guardian angels of Greece, Rome and their heirs may rise, these are only relative events. They rise higher but can never reach the highest heights. On the other hand, when the Jewish People are finally redeemed it will be clear that we shall only be above.

Because above the skys the limit where angels fear to tread.

Pirkei DRebbe Eliezer and Mr. Aaron Rosenbaum
as heard from his grandson, Rabbi Chaim Zvi Senter

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