Ki Tavo 5769

August 30, 2009

8 min read


Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8 )

GOOD MORNING! The story is told of two prisoners condemned to death being held for 6 months in the dungeon of a castle. On the day of execution, the lieutenant leads them down the corridor and up the stairs level by level until they come to the courtyard exit. They are taken to the wall, blindfolded, given their last cigarette and their hands are tied behind their backs. The lieutenant walks back to his firing squad and says, "Ready, aim ..." and one prisoner turns to the other prisoner and says, "Now here's my plan!"

Rosh Hashana is coming. It's up to us to make our plans and prepare for it before it's upon us. How do we prepare for Rosh Hashana? First, we have to focus on the essence of Rosh Hashana - it is the time for us to recognize and accept the Almighty as a reality in our lives.

The Mussaf davening (the second part of the morning service in the Shemoneh Esray - the Amidah, the Standing Prayer) we focus on Malchios (Kingship), Zichronos (Remembrance) and Shofros (Shofar blasts). These focus on three aspects of our relationships with the Almighty: (1) He is the Sovereign of the world - He created it, directs it, interacts with history. (2) He remembers the covenant with our forefathers, our deeds and administers justice to us, (3) His Presence is manifest throughout history -i.e., the shofar blast at the giving of the 10 Commandments to the Shofar blast of the final redemption. The Shofar is to wake up and to take action.

For many of us it is difficult to relate to God. Our society gives lip service to God, but we really have little understanding of God - of how He relates to us and the world. It is difficult to feel His presence or understand His role in our lives - we may not even know that deep down that we really believe in God.

If you are unsure and would like to demonstrate to yourself that you believe in God, then ask yourself these questions: (1) Did you ever pray? (2) Were your prayers ever answered? (Most everybody says "yes.") (3) What did you do to "bribe" God to answer your prayer? (In truth, one can't bribe God with anything; God has no needs. He doesn't need our prayers or our praises. Actually, prayer is to change us, not Him.) (4) If you didn't do anything to "bribe" God, then God did it just for you -does that mean that God loves you? Most people are able to appreciate the concept and accept it.

There are two ways to gain an understanding of God - intellectual and emotional. For information on the existence of God you can listen to or download "Evidence of God's Existence" by Rav Noah Weinberg (the founder and head of Aish HaTorah and my teacher) at or purchase it from 800-864-2373. You can also buy Permission to Believe by Lawrence Kelemen.

However, even if one has sufficient intellectual reason to believe in God, he still has to interact with God on an emotional level to have a relationship. To make God real to you, you need to take what you know by intellect and make it an emotional reality. God is not a computer to input data or get a read-out. God is our Father in Heaven Who loves us and wants good for us.

How can you work on your relationship with God? It is an old Jewish custom to take walks and talk with God, to commune with God. You can talk to God, pray, pour your heart out. It's a lot easier to do this when, unfortunately, there is a tragedy going on in one's life. One has to treat God as a reality to feel God as a reality. If one focuses on the many blessings in his life, it is easy to feel God's love. There is no better book to help you develop gratitude to the Almighty than Rabbi Zelig Pliskin's Thank You - and no better book to feel the Almighty's presence than Rabbi Pliskin's My Father, My King. (All of the books mentioned are available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.)

Soon the "lieutenant" will be coming to escort us to the Rosh Hashana services. Hopefully, you'll be ready with not an escape plan in hand, but a plan for connection, for commitment, for growth. A sweet and healthy year to you and your family!

For more on "Rosh Hashana" go to!


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Torah Portion of the Week
Ki Tavo

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!"

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And you shall rejoice with all the good that the Almighty has given you" (Deuteronomy 26:11).

Why does the Torah obligate us with a commandment to rejoice when the natural inclination is to be happy when good things happen to us?

Rabbi Mordechai Gifter, Rosh HaYeshiva of Telse Yeshiva in Cleveland, clarifies with an insight into human nature: "Man's nature is to constantly want more than he presently has. 'He who has one hundred wants two hundred.' Our moments of joy are mixed with sadness over what we lack -and this is destructive both physically and spiritually. Therefore, the Torah commands us to feel a joy that is complete - to focus on and rejoice with what we have."

If you think that you will be happy only when you have more, then you will NEVER be happy. When you finally get what you were hoping for, you will once again focus on getting more and will again feel unhappy. Happiness is dependent upon your state of mind. You can only be happy if you appreciate what you have and what you are presently doing.

In Pirkei Avos (chapter 4, first mishna/"teaching") it states, "Who is the rich person? He who is happy with his portion." Regardless of what you have, you are only wealthy if you have mastered the ability to appreciate what you have. (This includes appreciating your children, too!) There are many people who are like multi-millionaires who don't know that they are rich because all of their money is sewn into the mattress and they don't know that it is there. Instead, they complain about sleeping on a lumpy mattress! ( I think of Aish HaTorah as "poking holes in mattresses" so that Jews everywhere can see the beauty, meaning and values in our heritage.)

One can have eyes, hands, feet, a mind to think with and be depressed -unless he focuses on taking pleasure in these gifts. Imagine if you were blind and suddenly were given the gift of sight. Would you be "flying high"? You would be beyond yourself in happiness! Why wait to appreciate what you have? Make a list of your gifts and for what you are grateful to the Almighty. It is good preparation for Rosh Hashana!


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The only real nobility is
in being superior to your former self.
--  Whitney Young


With Special Thanks to

Hope Sacharoff


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

Click here for Rabbi Packouz's bio
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