Beit Midrash

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

Ki Tavo


Rabbi Berel Wein

Elul 5768
The parsha of the week is dominated by the two polarities that dominate Jewish life over the ages and especially Jewish life over the past two generations. They are the idea of the entry of the Jewish people intio their promised homeland, the Land of Israel, and the awful and awesome description of the troubles, persecution and deaths that will befall the Jewish people - the tochacha. One is a message of hope, vitality and a future of serenity - each person at peace under one's vine and fig tree. The other message is one of tragedy and depression, almost of despair. How are we to reconcile these two seemingly contradictory messages and prophecies?

By the simple review of the past events of the lasr seventy years of Jewish life, we are able to see clearly how these absolutely irreconilable and opposite events and moods can exist in simultaneous disharmony. The Holocaust was the complete fulfillment, down to the last horrid detail, of the prophecy foretelling the tochacha. Rashi points out that no one in the world would be ready to accept the Jews within their homes and borders, even as laborers and servants. Death would be the only acceptable solution to the "Jewish problem." As Moshe will state later in the book of Dvarim " the hidden things are known to God our Lord alone" but nevertheless "what is revealed to us that we must persevere and observe the words and commandments of the Torah for us and our descendants." So we can only accept the tochacha as a reality and not attempt tortured explanations and justifications.

However, the idea of the return of the people of Israel to the Land of Israel has also been translated into reality over the past decades. And we read in this week's parsha, a Jew who is priveleged to share in the bounty and blessing of the Land of Israel is obligated to make a public acknowledgement of one's gratitude and thanks to the God of Israel for living in such a time and place. The Torah teaches us to abhor ingratitude.

Life provides all of us with ample annoyances and problems to cause us discomfort. This is as true in the Land of Israel as anywher else. I have just returned from the United States where I experienced Israelis who now live there sheepishly tell me that their quality of life is no better if not even somewhat worse in New York than it was in Jerusalem. Most people are distracted by the mundane and eventually unimportant aspects of daily life.

The Torah bids us to view life in a broader perspective and more meaningful fashion. God wishes, so to speak, a more sophisticated and wise appreciation of the gifts granted us by Him. In our time, the Land of Israel is one of the greatest gifts granted unto us. We cannot be guilty of treating it with ingratitude and complaint, no matter the frustrations and problems of everyday life here. Balancing the polarities of the messages of the parsha remain a great challenge to us. May we be worthy of that challenge and its solutions.
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