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  • Writer's pictureAyelet HaShachar

Ki Tavo: Community – cure for a curse

This Dvar Torah was delivered by Avril Janks for parshat Ki Tavo at our online Kabbalat Shabbat service on 27 August


This week’s Parsha describes a situation remarkably similar and different to a situation we face every day. The differences are more than just differences in time and place. For us as a Jewish community, they are differences that transcend time, and offer us hope in the most difficult of times.

This week’s parsha, Ki Tavo, means ‘when you arrive’, and describes the moment that the people of Israel, having left Egypt and wandered in the desert, are about to enter the land of Israel at last. Their leader – Moses – stands before them, making announcements and giving instructions that will determine their day to day life from now on - and their future.

Sound familiar? Did you wait this morning for Gladys and Brad, or Dan, or that tough cookie in Queenland, to share their prohibitions and their pessimism? Did you hear from them the fate that would result from compliance, and the even worse fate from non-compliance?

Moses, as he stood before the people of Israel on the threshold of their first entry into the promised land, gave some stern orders, but bound up in those orders were promises of reward. He said:

“You shall, today, hearken to God and promise to keep all God’s laws. Today, God said that you shall be a people belonging to God alone.”

And, if the Israelites didn’t follow the rules, he said, then “[C]urses will come upon you and overtake you.”

And there’s something far too prophetic for our comfort about that curse, because he says,

“God will send to you plagues and sufferings and sicknesses that are evil and enduring.”

In addition, Moses places a curse on anyone who doesn’t act in a socially responsible way.

Do not deprive others of their rights, he says: “Cursed is he who moves the boundary marker of his neighbour.”

Woe to you if you take advantage of people who are vulnerable, he says: “Cursed is he who misleads a blind man, or twists what is rightfully due to an orphan or stranger or widow.”

Violence, too, is prohibited: “‘Cursed is he who strikes down his neighbour.”

But Moses also gives the people of Israel hope for a much better future, which is certainly something we don’t hear from Glad and Brad in in their morning warnings these days. He gives hope for the long game: he promises spiritual protection, and growth and unity as a people.

He says: “God will place you high above all the nations God has created. You will be a proclamation for God’s Name and for God’s glory. You shall be a holy people to God.”

To achieve this, Moses says, we need to be mindful of community and our responsibility towards it. He doesn’t give us the current warning that we care best for our community when we distance ourselves from them. Instead, he reminds us of the importance of sharing apportion of your food and your earnings with those less fortunate. He says that when the people of Israel have planted their crops and the harvest has come, they should start paying the tithe – their social welfare tax.

“You shall give portions,” he says, “to the Levite, the stranger, the orphan, and the widow. They shall eat it within your gates and be satisfied.”

So yes, move over Gladys and Dan. Ki Tavo teaches what our premiers could learn from our prophets. Give people hope for a secure future, and pride in who they are, and emphasise the importance of social responsibility.

And then the curses will fall away and the future will be good.

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