4/5 Sept: Ki Tavo :Shabbat comes in 7:26 pm, ends 8:27 pm
Parashat Ki Tavo – Seeing Miracles
The Children of Israel have seen ten plagues in their last days as slaves, walked through the split sea, experienced revelation at Mt Sinai, and seen miracles in the wilderness. And yet, according to Moses in this week’s parashah, it is only now, after forty years of wandering, that they have attained ‘a heart to know, eyes to see and ears to hear’ (Deuteronomy 29:3). This statement comes just after the Tokh’kha, the Rebuke, in which blessings are laid out for if we follow the Law of God, and curses for if we do not.
Why has it taken the Israelites so long to internalise what has happened to them? Why does Moses feel that they require this reward-and-punishment theology in order to access the importance of following God ? One answer suggested by Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan is that this experience was not unique to the wandering Israelites. It may seem absurd to us that the Israelites do not trust in God after everything God has done for them – but we, too, walk through each day ignoring miracles. From that mindset, the forty years of wandering that it took for the Israelites to process their relationship with the Omnipresent does not seem so absurd.
May we all be blessed to take note of the miracles around us.
So in terms of a punishment for the people of Noah’s time, the flood and the destruction of all living things does seem a bit extreme. One of my rabbis, Rabbi Brad Artson argues, that is exactly the point the Torah is trying to make.
Destruction, even when it comes from the God who is “slow to anger and abounding in kindness” bursts beyond any manageable or fair limitations. Even punishments, originally intended to be measured and reasonable, provoke unanticipated suffering and hardship.
Rabbi Paul Arberman.
Abraham Joshua Heschel believed that Adam’s sin was primarily in hiding from God and from himself. This is not, in Heschel’s eyes, an abstract idea; we all hide from God and from ourselves. Heschel expresses it thus in the third verse of his poem I and Thou:
” Often I glimpse Myself in everyone’s form,
hear My own speech – a distant, quiet voice – in people’s weeping,
as if under millions of masks My face would lie hidden. ”
Heschel is describing a personal experience in which he has hidden from himelf, his essence absorbed within society. His face is masked, hidden from view, making the idea to “know thyself” impossible.
I’m not sure why we hide from ourselves so well when we are young — or perhaps we just don’t take the time to think through who we are — but I can say definitively, that one of the great joys of getting older is the unmasking — getting to know yourself — what you actually enjoy or don’t enjoy doing.
Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman