Ki Tavo 5777
Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8 )
Primer on prayer.
GOOD MORNING! Soon we are going to spend a lot of time in synagogue on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur praying. If God is all-knowing, all-powerful and good -- then He knows what we need and will provide it. He doesn't need me to remind him and certainly I am not going to change His mind by flattering Him or bribery. So, why pray?
What changes through prayer is not the "Mind" or "Desire" of the Almighty. What changes in prayer is us. By recognizing the Source of all of our blessings -- our sustenance, our health, our success, our very existence -- we bring ourselves to a higher spiritual level; we bring ourselves closer to Him. We create a relationship with Him.
Whether the Almighty fulfills one's requests in full or in part is determined by Him as to what is good for us. We can relate to this as parents. A child may beg for something that the parent knows is not in the child's best interest and may even be a danger to a child. The smart and caring parent will do the right thing, do the difficult thing and say "no." That is why all prayers are answered -- sometimes with a "Yes," sometimes with a "No" and sometimes ... with a "Not yet."
When we recognize and appreciate our relationship with the Almighty -- then many of the things that we wanted actually become good for us to have. We can use them properly for positive ends and they will help us to perfect ourselves and the world around us.
That is why it is a mistake to think that we should only pray for the "Big Things" -- like health and life. Asking for big things or small things is only from our perspective; to God all things are possible and important. However, each and every prayer builds that relationship and enhances our comfort and ability to pray.
When the time comes to pray for the big things, it will come easier. Imagine the difficulties of asking your father or mother for help after not speaking with them for years?
And if you haven't prayed in years, feel it's too late to start, or that you're a hypocrite for praying -- don't worry. God is the loving parent who wants only good for us and unlike a loving parent who has been ignored for decades and might not listen, God will listen to us when we call out to Him! Go for a walk in a park. Find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed. Just pour out your heart and talk to God.
If you feel you need structure, you can turn to a Siddur, a prayer book. I highly recommend the Artscroll Siddur. There are many excellent books on prayer. Go to a Jewish bookstore and see which ones speak to your heart.
Prayer has three components based on how one would place a request before an earthly king: 1) Praise (God doesn't need our praises; however, it focuses us to Whom we are talking.) 2) Requests. 3) Thanks. It is the height of good manners to show appreciation. A short prayer might go something like: "Almighty, Master of the Universe, Who has given me all good things, please (make your request here). Thank you for this and for all that You have given me."
There are 5 steps that will help get your prayers answered: 1) Feel God's presence. You are talking to a loving, all-powerful Being who wants to give you everything that's good. All over the world God is answering prayers because He loves His children. 2) Expect results. God has a track record. If you don't really believe God can and will help you, you're not really praying. 3) Pay attention to what God is teaching you. Everything that happens is for your good. If you are in need, realize God is teaching you something. If you trust Him, you will hear what He is telling you. 4) Get in touch with what you're really after. Know your bottom line. You're talking to the awesome Creator, so don't ask for nonsense. He wants you to grow up. 5) Being serious about what you're praying for means that you're doing everything you can to make it happen. God will lend a hand only when you put in the effort. He'll never take away your independence because that's His ultimate gift to you.
A sweet and healthy year for you and yours -- and may all of your prayers be heard and answered!
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 He brought us to this place and He gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey" (Deuteronomy 26:9).
Rashi, the great commentator, explains that "this place" refers to the Bait Hamikdosh, the Temple in Jerusalem. The question arises: Why isn't the order the other way around? Since the Israelites entered the Land of Israel much before they built the Temple, the land should be mentioned first!
Rabbi Naftoli Tzvi Berlin of Volozhin explains that the Bait Hamikdosh was a spiritual benefit and the Land of Israel was a physical benefit. When we express our gratitude to the Almighty we should do so in the order of importance of the things for which we are grateful. Therefore, we thank Him for our spiritual blessings before our material ones.
This, too, should be our order of priorities in our thinking and behavior. Our spiritual needs should be uppermost in our minds. This will have practical ramifications should there be a conflict between our spiritual and material well-being.
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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 Bait 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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Guatemala 5:51 - Hong Kong 6:16 - Honolulu 6:23
J'Burg 5:41 - London 7:13 - Los Angeles 6:51
Melbourne 5:47 - Mexico City 7:27 - Miami 7:14
New York 6:58 - Singapore 6:48 - Toronto 7:22
Life is fragile -- Handle with prayer