Kee Tavo

by | Aug 31, 2012 | Torah Thought

The Israelites are taught that re-entering the Promised Land is more than a physical act. At the core of their great adventure is a spiritual drama calling for giving thanks through a heartfelt thanksgiving, to the God who led Israel from diverse confines of Egypt’s House of Bondage to freedom’s open promise and the underlying premise of Sinai’s responsibility.

The expected offering to the priest from the bounty of “a land flowing with milk and honey” and the consecrated field’s labor is designed as an uplifting recognition of divine benevolence that ought not go unnoticed, but internalized for generations to come. It becomes a humbling act of acknowledging an individual’s, along with a people’s limitations, particularly for a nation covenanted to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

However, given the human proclivity to take blessings for granted and put aside the true record of one’s accomplishments and failings for short-term self-aggrandizement, implicit in the Israelites’ approaching the priest with early goods is a remembrance of these gifts’ divine origin which assumes even fuller significance while reciting the liberation saga of the Exodus. A liberation also from our own petty narrowness and pagan blindness to the larger scene of the human enterprise, in which God is a senior partner.

It is precisely in the moment of peak rejoicing of the harvest’s fruitful yield that the celebrating Israelites are commanded to recall trying beginnings of their people’s sojourn and subsequent suffering in the crucible of Egyptian tyranny, lest a journey of forgetfulness and neglect ensues with disastrous consequences.

It is difficult though to reconcile the lyrically tender words, so very relevant at this trying time, in the Parsha of “hashkifa mimon kodschecha min-hashamayim uvarech et-amcha et-Yisrael..” (“Behold from the heights of your holy abode, from heaven and bless Your people, Israel…”), to the extraordinarily harsh and indescribable punishments to befall us for straying from God’s Covenant.

How moving and beautiful is the following, “Look down from Your holy abode, from heaven and bless Your people Israel and the soil You have given us, a land flowing with milk and honey, as you swore to our fathers…You have affirmed this day that the Lord is your God, that you will walk in His ways, that you will observe His laws and commandments and rules, and that you will obey Him. And the Lord has affirmed this day that you are, as He Promised you, His treasured people which shall observe all His Commandments.”

On the threshold of a New Year, filled with mighty challenges and, we pray, also opportunities, may we pledge to pursue in tandem with the Most High the covenant’s loving, yet demanding agenda for our sake, as well as that of the Keeper of our lives.

Shana Tova of shalom’s sweet blessings of healing, hope and harmony!

—Rabbi Israel Zoberman is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Chaverim.