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Parashat 08/27/2010

Parashat Ki Tavo
submitted by Robert Rabinoff

A Tochachah For Our Time

And it shall be that if you listen to My voice and treat each other with kindness and compassion, then each man will feed his neighbor and all will be satisfied, and every woman will care for her neighbor’s children, and none shall make them afraid.  And I will bless all the work of your hands, and I will make you creative and fruitful, and you will live long and draw close to Me, and we will walk together in the garden of the Lord.

But if you do not listen to My voice and do not follow My commandments, and treat each other as objects for your own pleasure, then each man will steal from his neighbor and grow fat, but will not be satisfied.  And each woman will close the door in the face of the neighborhood and her children will cower in fear in their rooms, and none will comfort them.

And because your chimneys poured smoke into the skies I will send fires upon the trees of your forests, and you will walk through the blackened stumps and the dead animals.  And you will choke on the acrid fumes that will cover your cities, and your marble will turn black and your linens will turn gritty.  Your skies will be black at noon; you will cover your mouth but you will not be able to breathe.  And I will sear the grain of your fields and your people will cry for bread, but there will be no bread.

I will spill your oil into the sea and you will not be able to stop it up.  I will foul your beaches and kill your birds and your fish, and you will sit and watch, but your hand will be powerless to help.  And I will set alight your oil wells and fill your air with smoke.  And there will be no oil, and your trucks and your cars and your trains will stop, and none will move.  And you will freeze in the winter and bake in the summer.  And I will flood the farmers’ fields so they cannot plant and I blight the crops so they cannot reap.  And I will turn your fields into deserts and the bones of your flocks will lie upon the ground.  And your people will cry for bread but there will be no bread.

I will send dread diseases upon you, and there will be no cures.  And you will be terrified of getting sick for there will be none to heal you.  And you will pay for your cures but they will not heal you.  And your children will die in your arms because you cannot pay.

And I will send you leaders who are blind and deaf.  They will take bribes to sell you as slaves and they will take your wives and your children as their slaves.  And they will speak to you words of hope, and they will deliver you up to your enemies, and none shall teach right from wrong for none shall know right from wrong.  And they will send your children to fight in foreign lands against unseen enemies, and they will perish there, but you will not taste victory.  And they will fill the air with lies and they will slander each man his fellow, and the air will be filled with poison.

And your judges will permit what I have forbidden and forbid what I have permitted, and all shall stumble in their iniquity.  And you will pile up gold and silver and precious stones, but you will die, because you cannot eat them.  And you will perish from the good earth that I have given you because you did not listen to My voice and no man would help his neighbor.

Our Sages tell us that Gd has many messengers to deliver people their karma.  Rosh HaShanah is less than two weeks away.  Let us consider carefully how we can change ourselves to avoid the curses, ancient and modern, that our present behavior is bringing upon us.

Pirke Avot, Chapters 3-4

Mishnah 3:3

R. Chananiya ben Tradyon says:…

How do I know that if even one person sits and learns Torah that the Holy One, Blessed be He, determines a reward for him?  The verse states: “Let one sit in solitude and be still, for he will have received [a reward] for it.”

Perhaps the most basic mitzvah for any Jew is study of Torah, for study of Torah means putting our individual mind in tune with Gd’s Mind, as best we can as a finite creature.  Our Mishnah tells us, by implication, what is the most effective means of Torah study.  We should sit in solitude and be still.  This does not mean that we should not study with a teacher, as the tradition, although written down since the second century of the common era, is still basically oral, and must be transmitted from one living mind to another.  I think what it does mean is this:  Having concentrated on our learning, and having received an approach to the portion we are learning from our teacher, and having discussed and argued and wrestled with the knowledge along with our fellow-students, ultimately we need to integrate that knowledge into our own personality and our own life.  This integration can only be done by taking what we have learned and just being with it in silence.  Once it has been thoroughly worked over by the intellect, we need to drop the thought process and just be with the knowledge, allowing the mind spontaneously to organize it and integrate it with all our previous knowledge.  Then in that silence the knowledge truly becomes us, and we become it.  From that silent point, we can begin to radiate the pure light of Torah knowledge to everyone around us.