Haftorah and Torah Summaries for Ki Tavo– August 28, 2010

Torah Summary – Ki Tavo, 2010, Dev. 26:1 – 29:8, p. 1140

In today’s Torah portion we can hear Moses’ heartbreak in the opening words. Ki Tavo, when you go into the land that the Lord your God is giving you….” Not me, not us, but you. Moses’ opening words show that he has completely accepted that he will not go into the land which gives the redemption from Egyptian slavery its meaning. And Moses’ concluding words name Israel an “am segulah” – a treasured people, that distinguishes itself by accepting the guidelines of the Torah.

Most of this week’s verses are devoted to blessings and curses — an intense way of saying that there are consequences to our actions. Blessings will flow from desirable actions and curses will result from problematic behavior. The Torah is much more nuanced than it appears on the surface. We know that good things happen to bad people and vice versa. Because we live in a material, physical world in which we often have free choice, bad things can and do happen to innocent people. “Blessings” may be material, and they can often look like self confidence and inner strength. Curses can be seen as “real.” However, they often take the form of unhappiness, insecurity or lowered self esteem.

Moses, in humbly accepting the bitter consequence of being barred entry into the land of promise and redemption models how we are to behave. We are to be inspired through the words of our Tradition, and to live as blessings – in the wholeness of our humanity — for the betterment of the world.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Aviva Berg

Haftarah Summary – Ki Tavo, 2010 – Isaiah 60:1 – 22 – p. 1161

The Torah begins, “When God began to create heaven and earth – the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a ruach Elohim (a Divine spirit) sweeping over the water – God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light.” This light, the light of the beginning of time, is the light Isaiah is talking about in today’s Haftarah. The light that creates life, and illuminates the inner world of our souls, is the light of redemptive reality.

This past week, some of us studied the blessings of the Shema. We looked at the first of this central prayer’s three morning blessings, yotzer or. Ideally, we bless the One Who Forms Light at the precise moment the sun is rising. And as we witness the rays of the sun streak out over the horizon and our senses absorb the metaphor of creation, we are grateful for our lives.

In this sixth Haftarah of consolation after Tisha B’Av, the physical and emotional nightmare of utter destruction melts away under the radiance of return, reunion and rebirth. Messianism, the light of a utopian existence on every plane of existence, will outshine the sun. And the intensity of our inner lives will surpass the struggles of our physical lives. Ultimately, we will live in a state of happiness and peace.

In contrast to the Dark Ages, our Haftarah speaks of Light Ages — of freedom and redemption instead of restriction and captivity. Our days of mourning will be turned into days of joy. And our world will return to its original state of purity.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Aviva Berg