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Archive for the ‘Blessings’ Category

Parasha Ki Tavo – Deuteronomy 26:1 – 29:8

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 29, 2007


Blessings and Curses – the course of Action and Consequences

Focal Point: Devarim 26:12; 27:26; 28:2-6

“When you have set aside in full the tenth part of your yield — in the third year, the year of the tithe — and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat their fill in your settlements…

Cursed be he who will not uphold the terms of this Teaching and observe them. — And all the people shall say, Amen.

All these blessings shall come upon you and take effect, if you will but heed the word of the Lord your God:

Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the country. Blessed shall be the issue of your womb, the produce of your soil, and the offspring of your cattle, the calving of your herd and the lambing of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be in your comings and blessed shall you be in your goings.”

I am going to continue on the idea of the not so obvious matters. This Parasha starts with the command to offer First Fruits, and then it moves on to Tithing. Tithing in Torah is a simple Tax collection system that is supposed to guarantee that the entire People have what they need for their daily lives, regardless of what they can or cannot accomplish within the Community.

This Parasha seems to be almost a continuation directly from Parasha Re’eh. In Devarim 15 Torah states some rather contradictory things about the poor and needy – Devarim 15:4, 7, 11:

There shall be no needy among you — since the Lord your God will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a hereditary portion”

If, however, there is a needy person among you, one of your kinsmen in any of your settlements in the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman.”

For there will never cease to be needy ones in your land, which is why I command you: open your hand to the poor and needy kinsman in your land.”

How’s this possible? The answer lies in the conditional nature of Blessings and Curses, Action and Consequences.

Devarim 15:4 is the Ideal – it is based on the condition that The People of Israel indeed do Observe Torah to a tee.

Devarim 15:7 acknowledges the possibility that the Ideal is not going to be prevalent, and commands the proper attitude in the face of the “less than ideal”. If we fail at the provisions in Devarim 15:4, it can still be amended, through an attitude adjustment.

Devarim 15:11 accepts the fact that we are going to “miss the target” and commands the proper action in the face of this reality. If the attitude adjustment fails – then we need to take direct action and act regardless of the attitude.

It is this reality that Parasha Ki Tavo picks up and makes provisions for – The Tithe.

Another point here, before I move on to the less obvious matters, is within Devarim 15:11 – Torah tells us to be prepared for the reality of different people being in need of assistance at different times, and that those in need will not always be in the same kind of need. It also taps into the idea that a Society needs to take into account the cost of being a Society – we need to be financially responsible as a Society and make provisions for the needs of Society as such. There will always be a need for Societal finances.

But what about those of us who do not generate financial means that can be tithed? Well, I sort of think that Tithing doesn’t just cover our money. I think it covers ALL our resources, all that we are. So I need to give a tenth of my time, a tenth of my attention, a tenth of all my resources, a tenth of that which is not material, just like Parasha Ki Teitzei commands me to return anything lost to its proper owner, including a Lost Faith. We so often think in material terms, and disregard the power of immaterial things, love, attention, faith, care, art, music, unique skills, teaching etc as something there might be a need for.

Ok, on to the Blessings and Curses. We usually think of the Blessings as the norm, which is why we mention the Blessings first in common interactions. We never ask people to count their curses, though we might benefit from doing that too, to get an idea of just how much we are off target, as a way to take stock of ourselves on a regular basis. Torah has it the other way around. Torah assumes that we will fail at living up to it’s demands, and warns against it by mentioning the Curses first. In a way Torah thinks of the Curses as the norm. Why warn against something it assumes we will do anyway? To get our attention. To shake us up and make us mindful of our own actions, so we don’t go about life unaware of the impact we have on ourselves and others. Torah wants to make sure that we realize that we are not islands, isolated from each other or indeed ourselves.

Parasha Ki Tavo is a tough Parasha. But I rather like to think of it in terms of “for every action there is an equal re-action” – what I do has consequences. Good and Bad. It’s the Spiritual equivalent of Newton’s Third Law: All forces occur in pairs, and these two forces are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction.

Cool, isn’t it – Torah applied the Laws of Physics… long before they were common knowledge 🙂

Torah consider action and re-action to be a natural law – do we?

Shabbat Shalom!

This article, including artworks and photos in this Blog is Copyright © Henric C. Jensen aka Shadow Bear/Silly Old Bear and are NOT public domain – unless otherwise specified.

Posted in Blessings, Parasha Ki Tavo, Parasha Re'eh, Tithing, Torah | 2 Comments »

Who deserves the Credit for the Good we get?

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 2, 2007


I get a lot of thinking and inspiration from the guys and gals over at De-Conversion – they have the most spiritual and human discussions I have come across in a very long time – somehow they strike me as very Jewish in their approach (sorry Guys, but you do…:-) ).

 

From De-Conversion:“Next time you have the opportunity to pray over a meal, thank those who deserve to be thanked. In fact, next time you have an opportunity, volunteer to pray.”

Funny, I did this very thing before eating supper earlier this evening. I sometimes get a little overwhelmed with gratitude when I consider my marraige. My wife has been a marvel of patience and understanding to me, especially during this sometimes very stressful time of leaving my Christian faith. She really is the best.

I sometimes get the overwhelming urge to show gratitude, to thank someone or something for my good blessings! As a Christian, I always thanked God for those many blessings, because i really have been most fortunate. This evening, I felt this vestigial urge, even as a non-Christian, to say a prayer of gratitude.

Instead of thanking God for the food, I turned to my wife and thanked her. I feel just as blessed as ever.

I think we can learn a lot from the discussions on de-conversion – because these people are right – why exclude the entire process involved in all we get in our lives? Most of us thank G-d by route, without really thinking that for things to be available to us, human hands have to be involved.

 

The surgeon competently completing a complicated operation is doing that based on skills, talents, inclinations, and hard work – from my point of view ultimately G-d is responsible for all of that – but it took the listening to his/her personality (G-d’s Voice?) to step up and get the education that made him/her the competent surgeon, and for this he/she deserves credit.

 

Torah Teaches us that G-d is the Ultimate Source of everything, so in the end it really doesn’t matter who we thank for our good – G-d or the people involved in the process of that good. But as the Blogger above that I quoted, HeIsSailing, says – some times gratitude can be overwhelming, and we need to express it – so let’s do that, which ever way we feel is appropriate. From where I am standing it gets to the right place in either case.

 

The Talmudic Sages teach that a Frum Jew should say at least 100 Blessings a day – perhaps they were trying to convey the spiritual (not religious) truth that gratitude begets gratitude:

 

“Rabbi Meir said, ‘A person is obligated to bless 100 blessing every day, as the Torah says: ‘Now Israel, what does God ask from you, but only to fear Hashem your God, to go in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve Hashem your God, with all of your heart and with all of your soul. To guard the commands of Hashem and His statutes which I command you today, for your good.” (Deut. 10:12,13)

“Baruch ata adonai eloheinu, melech ha-olam hamotzi lechem haaretz… (Blessed are you, L-rd Our G-d, Who bring bread from the Earth.)” – the Jewish Blessing over Bread – can basically be used for any meal as long as there is bread (or any other grain product) present.

 

Funnily enough, the idea that it’s a process and that PEOPLE are involved – from the farmer to the baker and the cook – is implicit in Jewish Thought.

 

Acknowledging the efforts of a Woman in the Home is also a matter that is self-evident in Judaism. On Friday Night (Erev Shabbat) before the Shabbat Dinner a Jewish Husband is obligated to read Proverbs 31:10-31:

 

“A woman of valor, who can find? Far beyond pearls is her value.
Her husband’s heart trusts in her and he shall lack no fortune.
She repays his good, but never his harm, all the days of her life.
She seeks out wool and linen, and her hands work willingly,
She is like a merchant’s ships; from afar she brings her sustenance.
She rises while it is still nighttime, and gives food to her household and a ration to her maids.
She considers a field and buys it; from the fruit of her handiwork she plants a vineyard.
She girds her loins with might and strengthens her arms.
She senses that her enterprise is good, so her lamp is not extinguished at night.
She puts her hand to the distaff, and her palms support the spindle.
She spreads out her palm to the poor and extends her hands to the destitute.
She fears not snow for her household, for her entire household is clothed with scarlet wool.
Bedspreads she makes herself; linen and purple wool are her clothing.
Well-known at the gates is her husband as he sits with the elders of the land.
Garments she makes and sells, and she delivers a belt to the peddler.
Strength and splendor are her clothing, and smilingly she awaits her last day.
She opens her mouth with Wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She anticipates the needs of her household, and the bread of idleness, she does not eat.
Her children rise and celebrate her; and her husband, he praises her:
“Many daughters have attained valor, but you have surpassed them all.”
False is grace, and vain is beauty; a God-fearing woman, she should be praised.
Give her the fruit of her hands, and she will be praised at the gates by her very own deeds.”

Although it’s an obligation to give this thanks to one’s Wife on Shabbat Evening – no-one says one cannot say it every day, or when one wants to tell one’s Wife that what she does is appreciated.

 

So, thanking people doesn’t take away from either Gratitude or G-d. Perhaps it even deepens our understanding of the complicated processes that are behind of what we eat, what we wear, where we live etc?

 

“Oh and if you’re interested in taking up the tradition of reciting 100 Blessings a day, here’s a nifty little Reform resource to help get you started.”

Thank you TikkunGer.com for providing that little tool – I will use it as soon as my printer has ink in it…

Posted in 100 Blessings, Blessings, Informed Choice, Jewish Prayer, Jewish Spirituality, Judaism, Leaflet, Living Jewishly, On G-D, Prayer, Reform, Reform Resource | 4 Comments »

 
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