February 17, 2018


Parashat Ki Tavo is considered a very difficult parasha, andand part of it is mostly read in a whisper in the synagogue. This is the second parasha in the Torah that contains curses; the first is Parashat BeHukotai (Statutes), in the book of Leviticus, stating what will happen if we do not abide by God’s laws. We must remember, however, that each parasha is recited within a specific time period. Now in this time frame of the month of Elul, as we are in preparation for Rosh Hashana (the New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), Parashat Ki Tavo essentially teaches us the true intention of the wish “Let the year and its curses end, let the [new] year and its blessings begin” that we bestow on ourselves and one another at this time each year, which is to lead us to an understanding that we are responsible for our destiny, contingent on the story we tell ourselves. The purpose of creation, as we know, is to benefit us, the creations, with an infinite essence of good.


The Zohar teaches us that, contrary to Parashat BeHukotai where the blessings and curses are uttered side by side, the maledictions in this Parasha are meant also as words of promise and consolation, an intertwining of judgment and love. The Zohar conveys that there is an appeal within the curse: “Also, the Lord will bring every disease and plague which is not written in this Torah scroll, to destroy you” (Deuteronomy 28:61). Instead of the word “ya’ale” (bring upon), the word “ya’alem” (dispel) is used in the Torah, which, according to the Zohar, means dispel, vanish and nullify. Two individuals reading this passage will understand it differently. One will see a terrible curse, and the other will perceive a blessing, and they will each be right. We can continue to walk around with feelings of victimization and guilt, and every New Year cry out “we have sinned and are guilty” which is what we will get in the coming year if this is the story we tell ourselves. By changing the words and the thoughts we project we can change our decreed destiny, as is written: “As the wise person decrees, so does God fulfill”.

The Zohar and the Holy Ari explain that on the New Year, when abundance, good fortune and blessings are distributed from above for the coming year, we should not be occupying ourselves with problems and sins but rather with what we yearn for and the story we want to tell ourselves. At this time there is an infinite flow of blessings from God to the world, and we get what we draw from it. If our heart is consumed with anger and frustration, vanity and egotism, there is no room for this abundance and blessing to enter. The month of Elul gives us the opportunity to redefine the contract that we have undertaken; we no longer have to be victims, failures, evildoers, swindlers, etc., but rather what we want and decide to be.

“And God will return you to Egypt…” – seemingly a terrible thing to return to captivity in Egypt. But the Zohar shows us that this phrase can be read differently, and that the Creator will bring back to us all the miracles that occurred in the days of exodus from Egypt. “And there you ‘hitmakartem’ (sold yourselves) to your enemies for slaves and servants, but there is no buyer”. It is not written “nimkartem” (were sold), but rather, “hitmakartem“ (sold yourselves). The Hebrew word “hitmakartem” also means became addicted to. The Zohar explains that the enemy is in the addiction to the feeling of frustration and despair, and that even when we have “sold ourselves”, have become addicted, there is no chance (no buyer) if we do not allow the enemy control over us. Now is the time to practice our life story, begin to change it, to experience joy, and understand that everything is for the good.

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova.

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