Parasha Ki Tavo

The journey of parenthood can definitely be seen by some as a blessing, although during some sleepless nights I have had my doubts.  This is especially true for me, with Benny turning four and Henry turning two this month.  We witness another type of journey in this week's Torah portion, Parashat Ki Tavo.  After the frightening string of curses, Moses waxes nostalgic about the desert. In Deuteronomy 29:3 he suggests that the journey was necessary, not as punishment but as a term or period of gestation leading to spiritual preparedness for independence: "The Lord did not grant you the mind to comprehend, the eyes to see nor the ears to hear until this very day, hayom."

The word "hayom" (this day) is a motif in Ki Tavo, and it is quite popular throughout Deuteronomy (where it appears 75 times). Rhetorically, it lends a sense of urgency to the final sermons of Moses.  This urgency was not lost on the ancient rabbis who noted in one early Midrash, "these words should be new in your eyes as if you had received them today (hayom) from Mt. Sinai."

This is an auspicious message-that Torah should always be fresh, as if it were just revealed.  But I discern another meaning inherent in 29:3.  There Moses says that it wasn't until today that you had the ability to comprehend or even see or hear these words.  Rashi shares a beautiful additional message.  He says that we see that Moses gave the Torah scroll to the Levites (and the elders).  The rest of the nation protested, saying that some day the Levites would say that the Torah is theirs alone. Rashi interprets that all of Israel was standing at Sinai.  He concludes that Moses rejoices, noting that this demonstrates that the Israelite people had matured and become worthy of being called a People.  The journey to peoplehood is no less miraculous than the journey to parenthood.

Rosh Hashanah is coming, and my prayer for all of us on this verse is yet a bit different-closer, perhaps to the p'shat.[i] On this day, at this stage of our life, each of us is capable of understanding things that were previously hidden. Perhaps we have learned more, or perhaps we have matured.  Perhaps we have suffered in some way, or even felt new love. Our experience in this world is our aperture to the divine realm.

Only today can we understand this Torah. Tomorrow we may understand other things. But let us be fully present in this moment that is full of potential-the start of a year of Torah, the start of a new year of life. May it bring us the blessings of insight and wisdom, compassion and kindness, challenge and tranquility, and lasting peace.

 

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham

 

[i] The simple, plain or obvious meaning of a Biblical text as compared with drash, which denotes a comparative, allegoric or midrashic meaning.