September 18, 2019


9.20.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Parshat Ki Tavo

I am so grateful to Pastor John Pavlovitz for his uplifting and amazing presence last weekend. From Shabbat Services through Sunday evening, John taught, loved and lived his “Bigger Table” life. We are so Blessed to have him as a friend, teacher and guide.

This week’s Torah Portion is Ki Tavo.  The English translation of this is “when you come in.”  This parashah tells us the laws that we have to observe when we enter the land of Canaan.  It is a parashah that has laws, blessings, and curses.  It is interesting to note that in this parashah, Moses focuses more on the curses than on the blessings.  He delivers the second, Tochecha.  This Hebrew word translates to mean “rebuke.”  Moses tells us of what will happen when, not if, we go away from God and follow other false gods.

Why does Moses spend so much time on the curses?  I don’t think that it is because of the desire to be negative.  Moses has spent the last 40 years defending the people Israel.  He has looked for and found reasons for their bad actions and talked about what they do well.  I think that it is because this is a new generation of people.  These people who are entering the land are not the same people who lived under slavery in Egypt.  Most of these people were not at Sinai to witness the giving and receiving of Torah.  They do not remember the hardships of slavery.  He is telling them: DO NOT THINK THAT YOU HAVE A FREE RIDE BECAUSE OF THE MERIT OF YOUR ANCESTORS!

Herein lies a great problem for many people.  Too many of us believe that because we have it good, we are entitled to do what we want.  Too many of us were born here in the U.S. and do not understand the gift of freedom.  Too many of us have not had to suffer poverty so we don’t know or understand the blessings that we have.  Too many of us think and act as if we have no responsibility to nourish, feed and grow our blessings.  Too many of us believe that we have an endless supply of gifts and entitlements.  Too many of us think and act as if we have everything coming just because of our lineage.  WRONG, this parashah is telling us.

Moses and Torah are worried about this state of mind and being.  Moses is afraid that the expectations of the people will be so great that they will believe that because God chose their ancestors, they do not have to do anything to merit their bounty, and that it will never end.  Many years ago I attended a conference that the Reform Movement here in Los Angeles put on about the “not so secret of addictions in the Jewish Community.”  Dr. Stephen Marmar said then that we have spent the moral capital of our ancestors and not put anything back in the bank account.  How true his words were some 20 years ago, and how true they were some 3300 years ago!

What deposits are we making in our personal spiritual/moral bank account, and what deposits are we making in the spiritual/moral bank accounts of our community, people, and world?

This month of Elul calls for us to do an accounting of our souls.  We have to see the spiritual and moral capital that we have spent and deposited.  We can add to the bottom line of our spiritual/moral bank accounts through doing T’Shuvah.  This is the month and now is the time.

May this Shabbat bless us with the Grace to accept the gifts of our ancestors and to grow them into gifts for our descendants.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Mark