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Parashat Ki Tavo 5778 — 09/01/2018

Parashat Ki Tavo 5778 — 09/01/2018

Devarim 26:1-29:8
The central feature of Ki Tavo is the tochachah (rebuke) that takes up 53 of its 122 verses. Abarbanel points out that the point of the tochachah was not to terrify the nation into a cowering compliance with the laws of an arbitrary sovereign:

The idea of hearkening to the voice of Gd includes hearing, accepting, and believing in order to observe the commandments. This refers to the basic acceptance of the yoke of the Torah and the yoke of Heaven – of believing in the Torah and Gd’s sovereignty and accepting them. The focus is not simply on compliance or noncompliance in performing individual mitzvot, but rather on our fundamental attitude towards the mitzvot as a whole and our understanding of the basis of their observance. Belief and devotion in our hearts is what ultimately brings us to their observance. The curses will come about when we remove the yoke of Torah and the yoke of Heaven from our hearts, even if we physically perform the mitzvot.

Clearly, listening to Gd’s Voice / Word / Commandments does not mean mere intellectual assent to a set of doctrines or even to a system of civil, criminal and ritual law. Abarbanel asserts that somehow our assent must be integrated into our personalities, encompassing both intellect and heart, so that acting in accord with Gd’s Will is natural for us, even in the face of the blandishments of the physical world. What he, and virtually all commentators leave unanswered, is, “how do we get to that state?”

To attempt an answer to this question, I’d like to refer back to several earlier discussions. Here are the main points. Physical creation we understand to be structured in layers. The deeper layers (e.g. the atomic layer vs the molecular layer) are more abstract and powerful. At the basis of physical creation is a Unified Field – one field that appears to us in the guise of the various particles and forces of nature, depending on its mode of vibration. This field is totally abstract and within the realm of physical existences, all-powerful. The fundamental patterns of vibration of this field are what combine to give the entire physical creation.

Likewise, on the side of consciousness, we find that there is a layered structure. Our thoughts during waking state of consciousness are generally perceived on the surface level of consciousness, but at times when we are settled, when our minds are not racing, our thoughts are quieter, more abstract, and more powerful. Just as in the case of physics, there is a “unified field” of consciousness that underlies all the layers of our thought and personality. This field is a field of Pure Consciousness, consciousness devoid of any particular object of consciousness, be it a thought or a perception or an emotion. It is just awareness awake in itself. Since it has no boundaries of thought or perception, it is infinite, unbounded, beyond time and space, yet since it is consciousness, it can be experienced by the individual, by allowing the mind to settle down to its state of least activity. This deeply restful state is infinitely blissful, and the mind goes there naturally, without any effort on our part.

We further asserted that repeated alternation of the experience of Pure Consciousness and ordinary consciousness purifies and habituates the nervous system to maintain both styles of awareness simultaneously. That means, when we act in the world, our awareness is stationed in the field of pure awareness, which is infinitely blissful and fulfilling. That means that none of the allurements of the outer world can even begin to compete with the satisfaction we have inside ourselves. No longer can our reason be swayed by our passions, by our overwhelming desire for physical pleasure.

It is in this state of inner silence, with all the noise of the outer world of activity gone, that we can really hear the “still, small voice” with which Gd speaks to us. “Hearing Gd’s Voice” doesn’t mean simply memorizing a bunch of rules that we have to obey, as Abarbanel correctly states. We have to integrate Gd’s Will into our personality, so that sin is virtually impossible, and that is only possible if our activity is projected from this state of silent, pure awareness. In this state, it is possible to begin to intuit Gd’s Will.

Now our Sages tell us that Gd’s Will is to do good to all of creation, for all of creation to grow and flourish. Just as physical creation, as we have seen, is a complex pattern of vibration of the unified field, so all of Gd’s Creation, physical and spiritual, is a complex pattern of activity, with each part interacting with every other part. In such a non-linear system, it is impossible for our intellect to “calculate” all the ramified effects of any action, and whether the action will be life-supporting for ourselves and the environment. However, nature has no trouble doing these “calculations” spontaneously. When our mind is stationed in the silent depths of our awareness, we, as it were, give up control of all our activity to nature. We let nature do the calculations, automatically, in the same way that it governs all of creation according to Gd’s Will. With our mind and nervous system purified to a high degree of receptivity and flexibility, this all takes place at a quiet, intuitive level, where the still, small voice comes through loud and clear!


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parsashat Ki Tavo (When You Come In)

All the Parshiyyot (parts) of Torah have levels: At the deepest level, they are vibrations of Gd, Gd’s Name, The Liveliness of Gd. Listening to these vibrations helps us to attune to Gd, Totality, to gain teshuvah, restoration to the Primordial Oneness.

But they also have meaning, stories, commandments that give us principles, values, rules for living life in the everyday way and attuning us to Gd through our sacred behavior, our religious behavior.

In this parshah, as in all of the Book of Devarim, (Deuteronomy), Moses is preparing the Children of Israel to enter the Promised Land. Torah is for everyone, all times, so he is preparing us, too, to enter the Promised Land — not literally, the Land of Canaan, but more importantly, the Real Promised Land, dwelling in Gd, Totality.

The first words are encouraging: Ki Tavo means “when you come in”, not when you go in. The encouragement is that Gd is inviting the Children of Israel to come in – to join Him in the Promised Land, not just sending us out from the familiar land into an unknown one where we will have to fend for ourselves.

2. Encouragement is also given by the part of the parshah in which Moses says, (paraphrase) You have selected the Lrd this day, and He has selected you. This means whenever we move toward Wholeness-Gd — Gd moves toward us. A little love on our part brings Infinite Love from Gd.

3. Encouragement is given by the last words of the parshah: “And you shall observe the words of this covenant and fulfill them, in order that you will succeed in all that you do.” Moses tells us we will observe and fulfill, not that we must, but we will.

4. Encouragement also comes the fact that our ancestors claimed Torah for everyone, not just for the Levis — the teachers and priest. Moses rejoiced over this, “…until this day, the Lrd has not given you a heart to know, eyes to see and ears to hear.” But today you have chosen Torah, chosen Gd, and you have become a people — a community, not just a collection of individuals.

Fortunately for us, Gd has given our hearts enough knowingness that we choose Him; enough eyes and ears that we can appreciate the beauty of His Creation (the impulses of Him, the Flows of Him), and make use of it for food, shelter, clothing, tools.

And, fortunately, He Is, as He has told Moses earlier, Beyond Time, “I Was, I Am, and I Will Be” so He is all there is, and He is always guiding us to open our hearts to Him — to Our Self, to One — so

And, fortunately, we have examples, in our Jewish tradition, of Tzaddikim, the righteous, people whose hearts, eyes and ears were open enough to follow Torah well and to pass on traditions of openness.:
Examples of Tzaddikim are the Baal Shem Tov and Schneur Zalman: Wednesday, September 21, is the 18th of Elul, the birthday of both.

The Baal Shem Tov we honor for bringing Direct Experience of Gd back into Judaism and bringing also the emphasis on Joy and Love in the services.

Schneur Zalman we honor for being the founder of Chabad: “Ch” for “Chochmah”,Wisdom, “B” for “Binah”, Understanding, and “D” for “Da’at”, Knowledge, the Personal Aspect of Gd as Totality.

5. We can gain encouragement from the command to offer the first fruits — symbolically, the first fruits of any of our actions — to Gd: it means fruits will be there and we will have hearts open enough to express gratitude by offering them.

6. Similarly, the command to tithe to Levites, stranger, orphan and widow gives us the chance to keep our heart open and to share what we have earned in the awareness that our earnings are gifts from Gd and to be shared.

7. Through Moses, Gd commanded our ancestors to set up huge stones plastered with lime on which you will write the Torah. For us, hardbound copies or Torah on our computer or the Internet will serve. But in reality, it is our good actions that lead us to be aware of Torah in our hearts, Torah as the Liveliness of Gd, One with Gd.

8. Fortunately, even the curses that will be spoken from Mt. Ebal will have a quality of blessing in them because they will be proclaimed from the mountain on which Gd has put His Name and an altar has been built.

So this parshah gives us encouragement today that by reading Torah, listening to Torah, following Torah we can attune ourselves to Gd and enter the Promised Land, Oneness with Gd.

Baruch HaShem!