By: HaRav Menashe Sasson
Reporting from Jerusalem, Israel
Published in the U.S.A.
Parashat Ki Tavo restates that the Jewish people are a nation, separate and apart, and, above all of the other nations, not because the Jewish people are somehow “better” or “superior” to gentiles, but solely because the Jewish people accepted the Torah.
In other words, the Torah is reminding us that the Jewish people exist solely because their ancestors, the Israelites, accepted the Torah. The Torah is also telling us that, by extension, the Jewish nation likewise exists solely because the Jewish people accepted the Torah.
Parashat Ki Tavo then relates the second “Admonition” (“reproof,” “rebuke”) [תוכחה], which was given to the Jewish people by Moshe Rabbeinu shortly before the people crossed the Jordan river [נהר הירדן] to conquer Eretz Yisra’el. The first “Admonition” was given to the Jewish people by HaShem. Vayyiqra 26.
Although the text of the two sets of Admonitions differ, the message of both is the same: If the Jewish people keep the Torah, they will be blessed; if not, they will be cursed. The first Admonition provides: “If you walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them, then I will give you [blessings]. . . .” Vayyiqra 26:3. “But if you will not harken to Me, and will not do all these commandments [you will be cursed].” Vayyiqra 26:14.
The second Admonition states:
Debarim 28:15, et seq.
Often overlooked is the fact that both sets of Admonitions warn against not performing the misvot in Eretz Yisra’el. The first set of Admonitions warns, “And you shall do My statutes, and keep My judgments, and do them; and you shall dwell in the land in safety.” Vayyiqra 25:18. The second set of Admonitions, as mentioned earlier, was given shortly before the Jewish people entered and conquered Eretz Yisra’el. Viewed in this context, it’s clear that the misvot are to be performed in Eretz Yisra’el.
Religious Jews the world over are known for scrupulous adherence to keeping personal misvot. They keep Shabbat, pray three times a day, lay tefillin, keep Kosher, etc.
Observance of national misvot, however, is much less widespread. Only a small number of Jews make Aliyah and, of those Jews who do reside in Medinat Yisra’el (the State of Israel), few seek the implementation of political reforms that would result in the Medinat being governed as a Jewish State, instead of its current, Westernized, Hellenist, and distinctly non-Jewish mode of governance.
In this month of Elul, as we approach the High Holidays, may the Jewish nation endeavor to avoid the curses that the Torah describes in Parashat Ki Tavo, and elsewhere, by engaging in true Teshuvah (repentance) [תשובה] for its collective failure to keep all of the misvot of the Torah, including, and especially, the national misvot. As a part of its process of Teshuvah, may the Jewish nation undertake to reform Medinat Yisra’el so that the Medinat becomes a true Jewish state, as envisioned by the Torah.
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Menashe Sasson is a Sephardic rabbi and American attorney who resides in Jerusalem, Israel.