September 16, 2011

As many of you know by now, this coming week is Benny’s first birthday.  In reflecting back on the past year, I cannot help but feel blessed for everything Benny has brought to my life, including the sleepless nights.  The journey of parenthood can definitely be seen by some as a blessing, although some nights I wonder.

We witness another type of journey in this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Ki Tavo, at the end of the portion, after the frightening string of curses, Moses waxes nostalgic about the desert trek. In Devarim, Deuteronomy 29:3 he indicates 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 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 for all of us—that Torah should always be fresh, as if it were just revealed anew.  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 of Israel protested saying that some day the Levites would say that the Torah is theirs alone and Rashi interprets that all of Israel was standing at Sinai.  Rashi concludes that Moses rejoices saying that this demonstrates that the Israelite people had matured and become worthy of being called a People.  The journey to people hood is no less miraculous than the journey to parenthood.

We are only a couple of weeks away from Rosh Hashanah, 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 from us. Perhaps we have learned more to enrich our lives, or perhaps we have matured. Perhaps we have suffered in some way, or perhaps we have 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