Ki Tavo 2013

The late Lubavitcher Rebbe, in his Sichos (Conversations) and other teachings, frequently identified two related pathologies, חוסר אמונה, Choser Emuna, inadequate faith, and חוסר בטחון, Choser Bitachon, inadequate trust, as leading to many of our problems, both as individuals in our own lives and communally, in the status of the Jewish People.

Within the vastness of the wheels within wheels within wheels, we always read the Torah portion, Ki Tavo, on a Shabbat shortly before Rosh HaShana which is much more than merely the New Year, but also the beginning of our intense yearly efforts to understand and evaluate where we fell short in the previous year and to strategize how to do better in the next.  This parsha builds up to horrific descriptions of what awaits us if we totally fail to sense and acknowledge God’s presence, culminating in banishment into exile which is the beginning of total self-alienation on the individual level.

Studying the Maharal’s (community leader, Torah giant, master Kabbalist of 17th century Prague) masterpiece, Netzach Yisrael, literally the Eternity of Israel, with a close friend and colleague, we just yesterday came upon a profound insight.  He teaches that just as the redemption from Egypt, the paradigm of all redemption, was eternal, so the entering into the Holy Land,  following the Exodus, was to have been both immediate and eternal. However, as told in the story of the spies whose report disheartened the Jewish People at that time, we lost the confidence that we were truly fit for The Land, breaking the continuity between Redemption and Final Resolution, so weakening our hold on the land, individually our sense of confidence and optimism, our sense of being comfortable in our own skins, that instead of then reaching the promised and intended complete rectification of all reality our history branched into the “short-circuit” of multiple exiles, eventually becoming a seemingly endless one, just as our own dis-ease of alienation and lack of direction with their consequences can seem hopeless and inescapable.

Doubting our ability to conquer the stereotypes of evil, both within ourselves and in our larger world, represented by the Seven Nations, we really doubt the ability of The Creator to bring His own plan to fruition.  We also express doubt, as it were, in God’s intelligence–He thinks we and the Land of Israel are a perfect fit while we’re not so sure.

On an historical basis, even contemporarily, whenever we lack the confidence that we really have a place in the Holy Land, the world is only too happy to accommodate our doubts.  In our own lives, when we lose faith and confidence in our goals and purpose, we fall into depression and despair.

The central imagery of Rosh HaShana is God as מלך, Melech, King.  Not as an autocratic tyrant, mind you, but as the ultimate wisdom, ultimate power of the universe.  The directive, this year as in every past year, is clear.  We “restore God to His Throne”, return the Shechina, the manifestation of The Infinite in our mundane daily lives, by rebuilding and restoring our own sense of faith and trust in a Power and Being who transcends us and our own limited abilities.

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