Parashat Ki-Tavo includes, as usually happens, in the last sections, many references to mitzvot of which Moshe reminds the People of Israel before the imminent entrance to the Promised Land—where they would begin to have real validity.
We find the mitzvah of bringing the Bikurim, the first fruits of all production, as an offering to the Lord in the Beit haMikdash.
Why, after working and making an effort, do we have to deliver what is most expected, what is most longed for to God?
It is an act of humility acknowledging that not ALL the work is ours, that things take place due to the Lord. We are not the KINGS of the creation. We are privileged to be God's partners in it.
In the same way, in everything we do, we have to see ourselves as an integral ensemble and not as the most important part of it, taking into account the other people who help make good (and bad) things happen in general and happen to us in particular.
If we recognize that the world works in spite of us and not for us, then the fulfillment of mitzvot in gratitude to God and the appreciation of each one of the things we have, of each moment we live and of each one of the people with and to whom we live, they make our life more meaningful. Moreover, knowing that there is no ONE person who is the most important in a task makes ALL of us necessary.
That is exactly what happens in a Community. There is no such thing as simply relying on others doing things. It is necessary that each one assumes their part of the task, so that it is carried out. Nothing works with just one person doing what needs to be done. This is what happens with the Minyan and with each of the traditions that we have been keeping since ancient times and that we transmit with love to our children and grandchildren. What we more than anything must instill in them, transmit to them and, above all, fulfill ourselves is: to be present. Carrying out, proposing, questioning, creating and making the Community that we form grow.
The generation of Egypt, even in the middle of a nothingness like the desert, had everything served. They received the manna; a well of water accompanied them on the journey and provided them with this essential liquid; the column of cloud, which represented the divine presence, escorted and guided them, showing when to start the march and when and where to stop.
In this parashah, a sort of second pact is marked in which the people went from a miraculous and supernatural relationship with God and their leader, Moshe, to a more distant and earthly relationship, with a different leader such as Yehoshua, his successor.
In the same way, Temple Beth El had years in which manna fell easier from Heaven; it enjoyed a constant Minyan and a crowd that participated and 100 children who filled the Hebrew School.
Everything changed. We are now in another stage. In the same way that the People of Israel with their new leader, Yehoshua, had to worry about everything that they did not have to take care of in the desert with Moshe, we must take care of the continuity that we want for our families as an active part of our People and of the Community; we are the ones responsible for being a support for the Jewish life of these families.
There is a pasuk that draws a bit of attention. It says “Baruch atah bair uvaruch atah basade”—“Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the country.” Our sages, in the Talmud, explained to us that the idea of being blessed in the city had to do with living close to your community and the Beit Knesset.
There is a justification for this. Being close to your community and your synagogue has to do with sharing your daily life in community. It has to do with having a life enriched by study and good deeds and being present when others need you—giving your soul to others.
On the other hand, it also means receiving what others offer you in turn. In this way, a circle is formed in which everyone is a giver, but at the same time everyone is a recipient. Everyone benefits.
This is how one becomes blessed. Illuminating and exalting one's own life with the good of one and the good of others.
This week I want to add something regarding the haftarah, the portion of Neviyim—the Prophets—that corresponds to the weekly reading. It is complicated and somewhat distant to read a text referring to the messianic times in our days. It is not very clear if, due to so much corruption and injustice, we are approaching a sort of end of times and that Yeshayahu's prophecy is coming to sweep everything away to make way for an era of well-being, peace and respect, or if we are the ones who have to wake up and turn our faces to the mitzvot in search of a guide to put on track a world that has gone off course.
The prophet describes to us the end of a journey that is registered in the parashah of the week. The only way to achieve full coexistence in this world is with respect for the land; with respect to our possessions and those of our fellow men; with the recognition of offering what we have, so that those who have less do not suffer deficiencies; and knowing that life in community demands social responsibility.
Clearly, Yeshayahu's messianic era is not something magical. It is the consequence of a change in collective behavior and commitment—then we can share the best riches and we will live like kings. And only benevolence will be spoken of.