Ki Tavo 5775
Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8 )
GOOD MORNING! How do you get the most out of your life and make the most of your life? It all depends on setting priorities and goals, making decisions and following through. In essence, using your free will. What does the Torah teach regarding free will? The Almighty says, "See, I have put before you, life and good, death and evil ... choose life so that you may live..." (Deuteronomy 30:19).
Why are we instructed to choose "life" so that you may live rather than choose "good"? To choose life is to choose to live in reality and to accept the pain of living in reality rather than seeking comfort, indulgence, escape.
If a person wants to live in reality and to strengthen his free will, what can he do? Here is a 5 point mini-course in strengthening your free will!
1) Be aware. We are making decisions all of the time. Once you become sensitive to the fact that you are constantly making choices, then you can monitor your choices. At this point, you'll be using your free will actively and not passively. Don't let your decisions just happen. Take control. Ask yourself: Is this the decision that I want to be making? If it isn't, then change it.
2) Be your own person. Don't accept society's assumptions as your own unless you've thought them through and agree with them. Take responsibility for your decisions. It's amazing that during the Civil War in the United States virtually everyone north of the Mason-Dixon line was against slavery and virtually everyone south of the Line was pro-slavery. What happened? Did all of the "evil" people gravitate to the South like to a magnet (or like snowbirds to the sun)? We are all products of our society.
Likewise, don't be a slave to a past decision; just because you once thought that you couldn't do something, doesn't mean that the decision still applies. Start each day anew. Constantly reevaluate where you are in life in order to be sure that what you chose then is what you would still choose now. Make sure it's you who is guiding your decisions, not your decisions that are guiding you.
3) Understand that the battle is between the desires of the body and the aspirations of the soul. There are times when you know objectively that something is good for you, but your physical desires get in the way and distort your outlook. The ultimate desire of the body is to take it easy - to escape and exist in perpetual comfort rather than make the effort to confront life head-on. The ultimate desire of the soul is to live fully, vibrantly with every fiber of your being to do what's meaningful, what's right, what's productive.
4) Identify with your soul. Your soul is the real you! Therefore, if you can identify with the desires of the soul, it will satisfy the needs of the real you. Your task is to train the body and coax it to reflect the reality of the soul. Use the same strategy that the body uses on you! The body says "Just one bite of cake." You respond, "Sure! In just 10 minutes" and then you push it off another 10 minutes. Don't say, "I am hungry" -- say "My body is hungry." Identify with your soul and make your body a reflection of your soul. If you do that, you'll have real inner peace.
5) Ask, "What does God want?" You are using your power of choice to merge with the most meaningful and powerful Force in the universe: the transcendental!
The ultimate form of living is eternity, that is, life without any semblance of death. Therefore, attaching yourself to God is attaching to the highest and purest form of life itself: Eternity. That is the ultimate use of our free will. That's what God means when He says in our Torah, "Choose life." Choose to make His will your will. If you do, you'll be a little less than God Himself. Partners in perfecting the world!
If you truly wish to maximize your life, I highly recommend getting a copy of What the Angel Taught You -- Seven Keys to Life Fulfillment by Rabbi Noah Weinberg and Yaakov Solomon (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at JudaicaEnterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242). Not only will it expand on the concept of free will, but it will give you insights into the Five Levels of Pleasure, Prayer, Knowledge, Happiness, Intellectualism and Love. You won't be sorry!
Ki Tavo, Deuteronomy 26:1 -- 29:8
This week's portion includes: Bringing to the Temple as an offering the first fruits of the Seven Species special to the Land of Israel, Declaration of tithes, the Almighty designating the Jewish people as His treasured people (Deut. 26:16 -19), the command to set up in the Jordan River and then on Mount Ebal large stones which had the Torah written upon them in 70 languages, the command to have a public ratification of the acceptance of the Law from Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal; the Torah then sets forth the blessings for following the Law and the curses for not following it, and concludes with Moshe's final discourse. Verse 28:46 tells us the importance of serving the Almighty with "joy and a good heart." The last verse of the portion instructs us "You shall fulfill the words of this covenant and do them so that you will succeed in all that you do!"
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based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And now I brought the first fruit of the Land which the Almighty gave me, and you shall place it before the Almighty, your God, and you shall bow down before the Almighty, your God" (Deut 26:10).
We do not find the idea of bowing down to the Almighty mentioned with regards to other commandments. Why is it mentioned here in the bringing of the first fruits?
Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz teaches us that the whole concept of bringing the first fruits to the Bais HaMikdosh (the Holy Temple in Jerusalem) is to show gratitude to the Almighty for all that He has given. It is an expression of our awareness that everything we have is a gift from the Almighty. Therefore, the Torah mentions that we bow down to the Almighty, which symbolizes our total submission to His will because all that we have is from Him. This applies to our material as well as our intellectual achievements. Be grateful to the Almighty for all that you understand in Torah and any novel ideas that He has blessed you with.
The greater your awareness that all you have is a gift from the Almighty the more you will appreciate it. As many commentators point out, a small gift from a very distinguished and important dignitary is a precious possession. The greater the giver the more you treasure what you were given. When you live with the reality that all you have is a gift from the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, you will immensely enjoy everything you have!
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