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September 02, 2023: Parashat Torah Portion Ki Tavo

This week’s Parashah Torah Portion Ki Tavo is taken from Deuteronomy 26:1-29:9. Join Dr. Jeffery Myers, as he explains the relationship between happiness, and the punishment that would befall the Jewish people if they did not follow the Torah. There is a connection!

Follow along in the AUDIO PODCAST, by clicking on the play button below, and reading along with the notes, as you listen to today's Parashah Torah Portion:

Lion of Judah Speaks: Parashah Torah Portion Ki Tavo - Deuteronomy 26:1-29:9

As one who lives in this culture, we are many things, but more than anything else, we are privileged! If our previous generations had caught a glimpse of our lives they would have been in awe. So much of our menial labor/ drudgework that constituted the majority of daily life has been conquered by automation. The convenience and luxury of modern life, which we often take for granted, has brought us to a place of ease and comfort and YET modern man is not happy! We are filled with depression, anxiety, dysfunction and envy…so what is missing? This week’s Torah portion to a great extent deals with happiness, and it also outlines the devastating punishments that would befall the Jewish people if they do not follow the Torah. There is a connection!

Deut. 28:47 says, “Since you did not serve HaShem, your Elohim, with joy and gladness of heart, from KOV KOL (the abundance of everything).” The simple understanding is this: The people did not perform the mitzvot with happiness despite the fact that they were blessed with the abundance of everything. Elohim is telling us that the joy of Avoddat HaShem (serving Elohim) must be far greater than the pleasure derived from other endeavors. This is a lesson that is of great relevance to Yom Teruah which is soon approaching.

The main service of Yom Teruah, Trumpets, is to make Elohim King! A significant aspect of this is to recognize that Elohim is the ONLY source of meaning, all other sources of pleasure are meaningless. This is also a prerequisite to the “teshuva” (repentance) process leading up to Yom Kippur because if a person’s desires are NOT purely towards serving Elohim, then he will find it almost impossible to avoid sin. There will be times when his desires clash with Elohim’s will and his service of Elohim will inevitably suffer! Therefore, any teshuva he does on Yom Kippur will be tainted by his outlook on life—that Elohim is not the only source of TRUE MEANING and JOY! If a person somehow avoids sinning while pursuing his other desires, he will still face unpleasant consequences.

We may strive to acquire various pleasures in Olam Hazeh…money, honor, prestige, and property believing they will provide us with contentment but what was valuable at different times changes as we mature or draw close or draw away from Adonai. Everything else apart from closeness to Elohim that people believe are good is nothing but emptiness! In the next world we will see with perfect clarity how meaningless are those things that we put so much energy into acquiring in this world. The rebuke of Ki Tavo is a stark reminder that it is not enough to merely observe the mitzvot but that it must be the sole driving force in our lives. Honor, power, money, food and other pleasures are all illusionary sources of meaning. Making Elohim King means realizing that He is the only source of true happiness.

The opening paragraph of Deut. 26 commands the farmer, who has worked hard all year, to bring his first fruits to Jerusalem and express his thanks to Elohim for their bounty. The prayer of thanksgiving is woven together with a brief re-telling of our national history. This is designed to give context to our current success! The hard work has paid off, but it was built on the experiences of the past; moreover, when contrasted with the hopelessness of the past, our current success is that much sweeter.

However, there is another aspect to the rite of the first fruits: We are commanded to thank Elohim for His gifts thereby recognizing a type of partnership with Elohim. Our material success is not ours alone; it is not only our hard work but our national historical consciousness that has allowed us to achieve. Just as we are not alone when prospects seem bleak, so too we are not alone when we succeed, through the sweat of our brow, to build and innovate, sow and reap, invent and improve our lives.

As modern people, we are intoxicated with our own success and prone to extreme pride. We see ourselves as self-made men and worship our creator every time we glance in the mirror. But through it all we feel alone, out of touch with ourselves, forgetting how to speak honestly with ourselves and how to speak to Elohim, we no longer recall where we came from. We are self-absorbed and isolated because we forgot the past. We have no humility, no perspective and no context.

At the same time, we jeopardize our connection with the future. It is only when we transmit historical consciousness to our children, and live beyond the narrow confines of the present, do we stand a chance of being appreciated by our children, rather than being rejected, in turn, as a relic from the past.

So, this powerful Torah gives us a formula to combat narcissism, extreme pride and loneliness. A recipe for happiness and joy! What is this recipe? Keep an eye on the past. Know that you are part of something much greater than yourself—a nation that has arisen through trials and tribulations. Remember where you’ve come from and bring Elohim into the celebration of your success. Celebrate in front of Elohim and thank Him for your good fortune. Share this perspective with your spouse and children. Be generous and share your joy and the gifts Elohim has given you with those who are less fortunate.

Deut. 26:11 says, “And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which Adonai thy Elohim hath given you, and unto your house, you, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you.” This recipe for joy combines all these things; hard work to keep you honest, historical consciousness to provide context for your success, family and community to provide perspective, and healthy communication, generosity and humility will be great dividends. Finally, Deut. 28:46-47 tells us, “These curses will be on you and your descendants as a sign and a wonder forever. Because you didn’t serve Adonai your Yah with joy and gladness in your heart when you had such an abundance of everything.” When you come…come and serve Elohim with joy! Let us obey with a joy unspeakable because it is full of His glory!

Shabbat Shalom Mishpocha,

Join us every Wednesday at 7 pm for Bible study and every Saturday at 11 am for Sabbath service at:

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Serve Adonai with all your heart! Come to His House rejoicing for all He has done, in the past, present and will do in the future. Surrender your lives to Him on this appointed day. Let us give Him praise as we close out this week and begin anew with fresh manna from heaven. Pick up your shofars and let the sound of praise be heard. It is time…the King is coming! See you at the altar!

Shalom Aleichem

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