Shabbat Ki-Tavo 5783

Though the bad news in this week’s parshah, Ki-Tavo, gets most of the attention, there’s also some good news. Before the tokhekhah, the long warning of what will befall Israel if they aren’t faithful to God and the covenant, the Torah also includes blessings. Given that the context is the impending conquest of the Promised Land, military success or failure are key elements of these passages. For example:

“In one path they will come out against you, but in seven paths they shall run from before you” (Deuteronomy 28:7). Though the enemy’s attack will be unified and coordinated, their retreat will be chaotic, with every man for himself in panicked flight. Blessing, in military terms, is a rout of this magnitude.

For most of the two thousand years we’ve been interpreting the Torah, Jews could only imagine such a victory as pure fantasy. What some commentators did was reframe the battle, making the enemy not a nation or army but yezter hara, the evil inclination. In this understanding of the verse, the battlefield is psychological and spiritual. On Shabbat afternoon, we will learn from the great Hasidic master, Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev, about the kind of battle all Jews must fight yet can win, even when they are stateless and powerless.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise
Candle lighting: 7:09 PM
Torah Reading: Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8
Haftarah: Isaiah 60:1-22