Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Ki Tavo
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Elul 19 5778
If any theme is constant throughout the Torah & Jewish life, it is that of Hakarat HaTov, gratitude. We must at all times be aware of how much good Hashem does for us in all aspects of our life. That is why we start our day by
praising G-d for a myriad of blessings, & end our day by acknowledging our family, our safety & our country in the k’riat Shema al ha-mita (said in bed before retiring).

Rashi tells us that the offering of Bikurim, first-fruits, is a form of showing gratitude. That is why, as we are about to celebrate the bounty of our own land, we must first recall our journey from slavery to freedom, so we can marvel at just how far we have come to reach this point.

The farmer’s soliloquy begins: Arami oved avi; usually translated as, "An Aramean (Lavan) sought to destroy my father." Strange, isn’t it, to start off by mentioning Lavan? And then we reference Egypt no less than 3 times in this
short prayer. This, too, hints to another message that is imbedded in this text, one quite apropos for our time.

"Arami oved avi" can also mean, "A wandering Aramean was my ancestor (Yakov)." The Torah T’mima comments: "Normally, a nation conquers a land from a position of strength, from a power-base of its own. But the Jewish People were wanderers, not long out of slavery, with no country to fight from. And yet we managed to defeat 7 entrenched nations to take over Israel. What a miracle!"

Ancient Egypt was an Empire, massive & mighty. And yet, we humbled Egypt, & they vanished from the center stage of history. We, little Israel, would go on to eternal greatness while they would slip forever into the foggy footnotes of time. By invoking Egypt as a metaphor, we are saying to Hashem, "Thank you for giving us victory after victory, and for granting us immortality."

We emerged 72 years ago from the ashes of the Shoa, a battered & bruised nation, scattered around the world. On a mortal level, it appeared we were helpless, hopeless, defeated. And yet, against all odds, we founded the State
of Israel, united millions of Jews & won seven wars, B"H & kayn yirbu. Think of the nations surrounding us today: Iran, Turkey, Egypt. Each one was once a great power, a huge empire that ruled much of the ancient world: the
Persians, the Ottomans, the Pharaohs. But their massive empires dissolved, leaving them frustrated, pathetically only holding on to their delusions of grandeur.

And then they see Israel. This is the same Israel which they once ruled, doling out favors like a king to his vassals. But guess what? We are no longer vassals, subject to their whims & wishes. We stand upright, tall & proud. We, the wanderers, are the wonders of this world.

Thank you, Hashem!
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