Sign In Forgot Password

Parashat Ki Tavo

September 1, 2023
15 Elul 5783
Deuteronomy 26:1 - 29:8


Dear Friends,

“When you enter”, Ki Tavo, is the name of this week’s Torah portion, Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8. Let us take a moment or two and reflect upon the ways in which we enter new spaces, new situations, and new relationships. 

I recall marital advice that opined, “How you start is how you finish.” This did not imply that change and growth could not occur. Rather, it suggested that it was important to create a situation where change was possible and listening to one another was key. 

In our Torah portion, it references going into the new land and what needs to happen for the people to remain a people. In part, it is holding on their collective story. It also asks that they enter with the right mind set and the right attitude.

The curses found in this Torah portion can appear daunting and can seem unbalanced in the way that there are fewer blessings than curses found within. But when we look closely what emerges is that our tradition is not one of faith, but rather one of action, of deeds. It is how we enter and how we behave that make a difference. The intent behind our actions gives our actions meaning and creates agency.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel understands the significance of our deeds both as signs of our covenantal relationship and as active agents of change in our surroundings. In God in Search of Man, he writes:

“It is in the deeds that human beings become aware of what life really is, of their power to harm and to hurt, to wreck and to ruin; of their ability to derive joy and bestow it upon others…The deed is the test, the trial, and the risk. What we perform may seem slight, but the aftermath is immense.”

When we manifest our relationship, our covenant with God through action, it has the capacity to change the dynamic from curses and toward blessings. As Heschel maintained, “In a sacred deed we echo God’s suppressed chant…We intone God’s unfinished song. God depends upon us, awaits our deeds.”

The list of curses is a reminder that what we do and how we do it make a difference. We never know where our actions may lead. The ways in which we behave in the world matter. Our first step is toward those to whom we are closest, and then expands outward to ever growing circles.

In this time of reflection, understanding that what we do and how we do it matter. The way in which we enter into things matters. It is quite empowering. 


Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Tue, October 3 2023 18 Tishrei 5784