This Week’s Torah Portion | September 18 – September 24, 2016 – 15 Elul – 21 Elul, 5776

Ki Tavo (When You Come) – Weekly Torah Portion


Ki Tavo (כי תבוא | When you come in)

Torah: Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8

Haftarah: Isaiah 60:1-22

Gospel: Luke 23:26-56

This Week’s Torah Portion | September 18 – September 24, 2016 – 15 Elul – 21 Elul, 5776

From ancient times there has been a weekly portion (Parashah) from the first five books of Moses (The Torah) and an ending (Haftarah) from the Prophets read on the Sabbath in synagogues around the world. This portion is given a Hebrew name drawn from the opening words of the Torah passage. An illustration of this practice appears to have been recorded in Luke 4:16 where Yeshua (Jesus) arrived in the synagogue in Nazareth and was asked to read the portion (Isaiah 61) from the Prophets. 

We have found that in perusing these weekly readings, not only are we provided opportunity to identify in the context of God’s Word with millions of Jewish people around the world, but very often the Holy Spirit will illumine specific passages pertinent that week in our intercession for the Land and people of Israel. The Haftarah, unless otherwise noted, will be that read in Ashkenazy synagogues around the world. The references for all texts are those found in English translations of the Scriptures.
The Parashah for this week September 18-24, 2016 is called Ki Tavo- “When You Come Into…”

TORAH: Deuteronomy 26:1—29:9

HAFTARAH: Isaiah 60:1-22

TORAH

*Deuteronomy 26:1-11. Principal of “First Fruits” 

“And it shall be, when you come into the land which YHVH your God is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it, that you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the soil, which you shall bring from your land that YHVH your God is giving you, and put it in a basket and go to the place where YHVH your God chooses to make His name abide…‘I declare today to YHVH your God that I have come to the country which YHVH swore to our fathers to give us…and now, behold, I have brought the first fruits of the soil which you, O YHVH have given to me.’ Then you shall set it before YHVH your God, and worship before YHVH your God. So you shall rejoice in every good thing which YHVH your God has given to you and your house, you and the Levite and the stranger who is among you.” 

*Deuteronomy 26:12-15. “When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase…and have given it to the Levite, the wayfarer in you land, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled… ‘I have obeyed the voice of YHVH my God, and have done according to all that You have commanded. Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel and the Land which You have given us….”

For Israelis, part of the “holy tithe” of their fruitfulness was to be yielded up as provision for those who were ministering full-time to God on their behalf, the Levites. But not all—part of the tithe was to assist those whom God would send to live alongside His designated stewards of the land (Israel); as it were, a kind of offering of hospitality. And also, a portion was to go to those in their midst who had no means of supporting themselves, the fatherless and widows (James 1:27 in the New Covenant makes clear that this last continues to please the Father today). As Israelis were faithful and obedient to graciously see to the needs of all within the areas they had been entrusted to inhabit, they could then call upon YHVH their God to notice from His “holy habitation in heaven” (26:15), and to release His heavenly blessing over the people and the land.

Deuteronomy 27-28
In these chapters Israel is given further instructions to those of Deuteronomy 11:29-32. Upon entering the land, she must travel to the two mountains outside Shechem (Modern-day Nablus). This was near to the place where God appeared to and spoke with Abram when first he entered Canaan (Genesis 12:7). Israel must now return there and verbalize what actions will bring Israel blessing in the Land—and those which will result in curses. Curses for specific sins are listed in 27:14-26. Then come the promises of blessings for obedience to God’s commandments in 28:1-15. The curses for disobedience begin in 28:15 and continue through verse 68. This is one of the most terrifying passages in the Bible; by choosing to be outside of God’s protection, one opens one’s self to horrors—“Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies…” (vs 47). 

Tragically, much of the history of Israel may be traced in her choosing to walk out from beneath the “joy and gladness and abundance” offered her )eventually turning down the epitome and very source of these Blessings in the rejection of her Messiah), and wandering for centuries in the nations. Yet, even as she labored under that curse, there is an “everlasting love” which has “kept watch” through her long centuries of wanderings, continuing ever to “draw her in loving kindness” (Jer. 31:3). We believe there are many signs that those years are drawing to an end. This week’s Haftarah from Isaiah 60 portends her awakening, an awakening which heralds light and hope to the gentile nations as well!

*Deuteronomy 27:15-26. “And all the people shall answer and say, ‘AMEN!’ 

Twelve times the people are called to say this word. Its meaning is much deeper than a mere ‘period’ at the end of a prayer! In Hebrew, amen is made up of three letters which also form the root for the words faith, faithfulness, belief, and to believe. To say “Amen!” means, “I have faith in this”; “I believe this to be true” (Emet, the word for “truth” is itself etymologically related to this root). Believing God’s pronouncements regarding the sins listed in these verses, and affirming them to be true would bring life to those who obediently spoke them out. “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10).

HAFTARAH

*Isaiah 60:14. “Also the sons of those who afflicted you shall come bowing to you, and all those who despised you shall fall prostrate at the soles of your feet; And they shall call you The City of YHVH, Zion of the Holy One of Israel” (Emphases ours).

It is significant that the most virulent of Israel’s present enemies refuse to utilize the name “Israel,” a name given by God to Jacob (the offspring of Abraham’s covenant-son Isaac) and his descendants. Rather than Israel, they choose to utilize in a derisive way the name Zion (“the Zionist entity”). Neither will the deity they serve allow them to call on the name of the LORD (YHVH, Yehovah). This passage reveals that one day they will have discerned the light of Truth—and bow to the Holy One over all the earth, who chose to eternally associate himself with the three names they despised—Yehovah, Zion and Israel.

*Isaiah 60:18-20. “Violence (Hebrew: hamas) shall no longer be heard in your land, neither wasting nor destruction within your borders; but you shall call your walls Yeshu’ah (Salvation) and your gates Tehi’lah (Praise). The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; but the LORD will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory. Your sun shall no longer go down, nor shall your moon withdraw itself; For the LORD will be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended.”

“‘For I,’ says the LORD, ‘will be a wall of fire all around her, and I will be the glory in her midst’” (Zechariah 2:5).

*Isaiah 60:21. “Also your people shall all be righteous; they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified.”

It is righteousness that exalts a nation. The final securing of Israel’s inheritance back in the Land is their coming into that righteousness.

“He made Him who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor 5:21).

The Torah and Haftarah portions for next week ( September 25—October 1, 2016) are called Nitsavim—“You are Stationed…”   

TORAH: Deuteronomy 29:10—30:20

HAFTARAH: Isaiah 61:10—63:9

In A Nutshell

The portion, Ki Tavo (When You Come), begins with the last part of Moses’ speech before the people prior to his death. Upon the entrance to the land of Israel, Moses orders the people to write the words on big, whitewashed stones, and to build from them an altar for the Creator.

Moses describes the blessing that will come to Israel if they keep the Mitzvot (commandments), and the cursing that will come to them if they do not. He describes the state of the blessing and the curse on Mount Eival, and on Mount Gerizim—who will stand on each side, what are curses and what are blessings, and how they should be said.

The portion also deals with the Mitzvot of the first fruit, and the tithing laws. At the end of the portion Moses summarizes the events through which the people went, the Creator’s help on every step, and the people’s commitment to keep the Mitzvot.

Commentary

Our soul consists of 613 Mitzvot (commandments). Initially, they are all as the evil inclination, meaning aiming to benefit ourselves. In each of our desires appears—in the best case scenario—concern for ourselves. In the worst case scenario appears how we lie, steal, and use others for our own benefit.

Even if we do not use others, we still feel that the worse off they are, the better off we are. By nature, we are built to compare ourselves to others.

And yet, there is no one to complain to about it because the Creator admits, “I have created the evil inclination.” It is a process that began in Egypt, where we received the big evil inclination, the will to receive.

We discovered it at Mount Sinai, where we agreed to be “as one man with one heart,” to bond. Although we were by a mountain of hate, we united around the mountain and expressed willingness to unite. Although we were unable to actualize it, we were prepared to go for it. That was enough to receive the force of correction called “Torah,” whose light reforms.

During the process known as “forty years in the desert,” which is the majority of the Torah—which narrates primarily what happened in the desert—we prepared ourselves. We corrected ourselves and discovered our nature each time anew. We discovered how wicked we are, we ran into trouble, we committed sins and were repeatedly punished for it.

The process we went through in the desert qualified us for the correction of our Kelim, the correction of our desires from reception to bestowal, from intentions to benefit ourselves to intentions to benefit others. The correction takes place through suffering from above or through our own understanding of how to correct ourselves. In this way we achieve a state called “the land of Israel,” in which we are more or less ready to turn our desires from benefiting ourselves into benefiting others.

In the beginning of the desert, by Mount Sinai, we corrected all of our 613 desires from which our corrupted souls consist, having been created that way, as it is written, “I have created the evil inclination.” We reached a state where we did not wish to harm others, which is called “passing the desert.” Now, right before the entrance to the land of Israel, we must correct our desires so that with them we will do good to others.

The work of the desert is “that which you hate, do not do to your neighbor.” The intention to favor others is called “love your neighbor as yourself.” This is the next stage, the conquest of the land and the work in the land of Israel. This is our work, our correction, to aim our desires from ourselves to others.

This is why we were given the Torah, as it is written, “I have created the evil inclination, I have created for it the Torah as a spice.” If one aims oneself to this work, it is called “studying Torah,” “serving the Creator.” This is how we perform our correction. If we do this here and now, in our lives in this world, if we carry out these two stages in the work, these two degrees, we will traverse the desert, reach the land of Israel, and achieve the end of correction.
The more we advance through the desert toward the entrance to the land of Israel, the more we can see how our demand for correction becomes better focused, more concrete, more practical, and clearer, so it can be explained in practical terms to any person who advances and corrects oneself into love of others.

This is why the portion speaks of stones, the building of Malchut and Bina, and the connection between those two degrees—the blessing and the curse. The uncorrected Malchut is the curse, and the corrected degree of Bina, to which Malchut joins, is the blessing. They stand as two mountains before a person who uses them, and the person stands between the blessing and the curse. Thus, a person stands between those two lines, building oneself as the middle line, and this is the structure of the corrected soul.

The portion speaks of stones, of building the altar. The word Even (stone) comes from the word Havanah (understanding). A stone is the degree of Bina. We need to go above reason, above our understanding. We rise above it and acquire a truly Godly mind and heart, above our nature. Out of the awareness in this new attainment, we write on the stones, on Malchut, which is a stone, our stony heart. Although the heart does not wish to be corrected, we gradually bring it to corrections and build with it the altar.
The portion speaks of the tithing, the tenth part, which is Malchut herself, the tenth Sefira that builds herself according to the amount she receives or does not receive. The portion also deals with the matter of the circumcision, which details how much we can or cannot use each desire in favor of others, what we do with the part we cannot correct, and how we use it in favor of others, although it is still not corrected. The portion explains how we continue to seemingly correct it.

We are talking about a process of recognition of evil in Egypt, the entrance to the desert and the land of Israel. Today the people of Israel are already in the land of Israel, but it seems that we still have not gotten into Egypt. There is a big gap between what is happening in Israel and where we are supposed to be. How can you explain this gap?

Today we are in a different situation, which is why we do not need to go through all those degrees. By “we” I mean the group that assembled and connected to Abraham, that went out of Babylon and came to the land of Canaan, and from Canaan—following the degrees of Isaac and Jacob—went into Egypt.

Egypt means that we have acquired our big egotistical will to receive, from which we wanted to escape because it was very bad for us. All that is negative in our lives comes to us because we are selfish, because we hate everyone and cannot avoid it. We bring these states on ourselves although we regret being pulled into these miserable states and worthless things. In this way we actually “finish” ourselves off, wasting our lives away on a lowly, animate degree, unable to rise to a higher level.

Initially, we strive for something eternal and perfect, but life in this world leads us into a life on the animate level. It is hard for us to live like an animal, so we cling to the hope that life continues in the next world. If we were certain that there is no continuity, we would not be able to go on living in this world because that would make our lives completely meaningless and pointless. This is why so many people believe in the next world, the afterlife.

The incarnations we have gone through have given us the understanding and the recognition. They have given us the drive to escape from Egypt, when we wish to obtain bestowal, Godliness, and to elevate our lives. We have already been through all the stages of scrutiny and correction. We have decided that we must exit our egos, and we want to rise above and move to another dimension of life.

The reality we live in can be one of reception for ourselves, as we feel it now while we are immersed in receiving more and more. However, there is another reality, where we do not absorb inwards, but rather exit ourselves, transcending the animate degree where we are in a material body, and perceiving what exists outside of us.

It is a special method, called “the wisdom of Kabbalah,” and we must learn how to act according to it, how to perceive the out-of-body reality. We still do not understand it, which is why it is called the “hidden world,” the “hidden method,” or “the method of the hidden.” It is a special instruction given to a person who truly wishes to exit oneself and begin to feel the reality outside of oneself, which is entirely bestowal upon others and love of others. This reality is completely opposite from the one we know today, where we give only to ourselves and love only ourselves, wishing to receive for ourselves and caring only about what is ours.

Achieving this transition requires a process; is this the process described here?
It requires a process of transition. This is why we are called “Hebrews,” form the word Avar (passing over, to pass over). Our whole work is to pass over.

At what stage is this process now? Where is the people of Israel today in relation to this process?

We have made the passing over, we passed through the desert. The correction was first done by exiting the ego. This is called traversing the desert and entering the land of Israel. That is, instead of receiving, we even began to bestow. We did it as a small country and a small nation that went out of Babylon.

However, to correct the rest of the Babylonians, we had to be broken and to go through the ruin of the Temple, meaning to reenter the ego, the will to receive, and to be dispersed among the nations. The ten tribes scattered and today we have no idea where they are, but they are mingled among all the nations, and they are doing their work, as do we, who have now returned to the land of Israel.

Something special is happening here, something that Kabbalists spoke about. We are returning not in order to live in Tel Aviv, Jaffa, or Holon, but in order to go through the stages of rising from the exile, out of Egypt, through the desert, to the actual land of Israel. We and the whole world are in these stages now.

What is happening throughout the world today resembles the time of the Pharaohs. It is written that Pharaoh drew Israel closer to the Creator. [1] He afflicted them, treated them badly, and threw them away so they would run from Egypt. This is how the Creator worked through Pharaoh. Pharaoh is really the Creator’s loyal servant, the servant of the upper force. Today we are feeling that these forces are affecting us and the entire world. They are truly like Pharaoh pressing us and we have nowhere to run.

The current crisis is putting us in a situation that we cannot overcome or correct as we were used to. We also cannot escape from country to country. No place is better or worse because the crisis is happening everywhere at the same time, very clearly and very quickly. So the way up is by, “And the children of Israel sighed because of the work” (Exodus 2:23).

We are the same group that had already gone through this process. We are carrying within us Reshimot (recollections) and genes from our previous states. We must be “a light for the nations” as soon as possible. For this reason, the pressure on us will only increase, more than on everybody else. The faster we pass it on to the world, crying out the biggest cry, the more we will spare ourselves and the world the suffering. Our good future depends entirely on our struggle with ourselves, with our own evil inclination, with the world that does not wish to listen, but especially with the people of Israel who do not want to listen. It is called the “War of Gog uMagog.”

What about the blessing and the curse? What is that mechanism?

These are the two forces by which man advances.

Is it the Creator’s doing?

Of course the Creator is doing it. From the very beginning He says, “I have created the evil inclination,” meaning He admits it. Our entire evolution is advancement through the “whip” that stands behind us, repeatedly coming down on us and goading us forward, while we have no choice but to run ahead and advance at its pace.

If we want to advance at the pace of the whip, it is called “in its time.” In this way we advance through beatings. But if we want to move faster than the beatings so they do not touch us, we need to move ourselves a little faster, in “I will hasten it,” meaning we need to rush time, as it is written that Israel sanctify the times, making them shorter.[2]

In other words, there are two options from the beginning.

Yes. One option is through the curse. This is also a correction because blows are corrections. The other option is through the blessing, when we are drawn forward.

We learn that we need to include all our desires, so what happened at Mount Sinai, when the people agreed to be as one man with one heart?

There is no need for anything more than that. We receive everything else. Of course there is a lot of work that must be done, but we receive help, support, an instruction called “Torah,” a force that is Moshe (Moses), which Moshech (pulls) us faster forward and thus prevents the blows from reaching us.

For the most part, the Torah speaks of things we go through against our will. It does not say that a person can go through everything in a good and pleasant way; it only points to the obstacles ahead, like a guidebook that marks obstacles, problems, transgressions, and so on. If we go through the path according to our nature, without promoting ourselves through the guidebook, we will suffer curses. This is our path—there are curses in it, punishments, and problems, because we are a “stiff-necked people,”[3] as we have seen throughout the road in the desert. The Torah does not take into account the fact that we can rush ourselves faster than the whip that whips us.

Is our choice only whether to go through the process favorably or unfavorably?

Our choice is only to run ahead toward the good, toward bestowal and love.

And we cannot change the overall plan?

No, but we can experience it differently, in a favorable and desirable way, to feel it as a good life. It is like a little child who does not want to go to school, so the child feels everything as pressure, beating, and suffering, as a truly hard life.

Know This Day and Reply unto Your Heart

“Heart with a double Bet means that the good inclination and the evil inclination, which reside in the heart, have mingled in one another and they are one. “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart” means with both your inclinations—the good inclination and the evil inclination, so the bad qualities of the evil inclination will become good, meaning he will serve the Lord with them and not sin through them. Then there will certainly be no difference between the good inclination and the evil inclination and they will be one.”

Zohar for All, VaEra (And I Appeared), item 90

If Mount Gerizim stands opposite Mount Eival, there are seemingly good and bad, so we will certainly choose the good. In that case, where is the choice?

The problem is that there is concealment. If a person knows what is good and what is bad, there is no choice here. By nature, we are drawn to the good and avoid the bad. But if there is concealment, we do not know which is bad and which is good. I have given you a blessing or a curse does not mean that on one corner we have someone who beats us up, and on the other corner stands someone who bakes us cakes. If that were the case, it would be obvious where we would go because there is no choice here. But in this way we would be like puppets on strings, not like human beings.

A human being is one who has grown above one’s beast, who is not drawn to the good that seems like a cake, nor runs from the bad where there is the curse. Rather, such a person tests oneself in relation to truth and falsehood. It is possible that what seems as a curse now is actually the truth, and that which seems like a cake is the lie. We need to elevate ourselves above the good and the bad that appear as such to our gut feelings. We need to raise ourselves according to our awareness, by being drawn toward the truth and not toward falsehood. This is the scrutiny that is so difficult for us to make.

What is the truth and what is a lie?

The truth is the point, a degree called “man,” who is similar to Elokim (God), where He is the standard, the highest place we must reach, and which includes everything. We need to come to a state that is to us as both truth and falsehood, good and bad, where everything connects into one place, as it is written, “I have created the evil inclination, I have created for it the Torah as a spice.” It is a place where all the beginnings connect, as it is written, “All my thoughts are in You” (Psalms 87:7).
Why then is it built this way, with all the conditions and concealments?

It is so in order to give people a chance to choose. Otherwise we will be as machines.

But people neither care nor want to care. They cannot choose anyway, so at least they should have a good life.

No, the whole purpose of creation is to turn us into human beings. A person who chooses regardless of good or bad elevates him or herself above the corporeal scrutiny.

If the Creator is benevolent, why did He draw us a path that is not easy, that most of the time it is unclear how good it really is?

Assume that a person turns on his vacuum cleaner and walks out of the house, while the vacuum cleaner is cleaning the carpets. This is what we look like today, and it seems as though we want to stay that way, walking around like robots, hitting one corner and turning to the other. Would we want to have this mechanism that keeps directing us in life this way? If so, where is the human here? We are not; we only feel as though we are alive, letting each day go by until we die, as long as we do not suffer.

The Creator’s purpose is precisely to show us the most sublime challenge, against the suffering, the difficulty, and despite the problems we are in. Our world is advancing toward a no choice situation, toward a crisis we cannot mend, and which we cannot exit or survive. Either we take upon ourselves the work of being human, or we will be forced into that position against our will.

Against our will means it will be done by blows, until we say, “We want it.” Therefore, we should learn to agree to the work we have been assigned to do, and then the good will immediately open up to us.

[1] “And Pharaoh drew near, and the sons of Israel looked, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they became very frightened; so the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord” (Exodus, 14:10).

[2]Masechet Berachot, 49a.

[3]Exodus, 32:9