Contributed by: R. Eric Mizrahi
Parashat Ki Tavo is a difficult parsha to cope with in our holy Torah. We learn of the extent of what will happen to us if we forgo on the method of life that the Torah support and endorses. The Torah states that our situation could deteriorate to the point that one would be forced to eat ones own children, Hashem Yasilenu, because of the oppression from enemy sieges around our cities. There are many more curses listed, however this one resonates with horror, that we need not list more.
What are we to do to avoid these curses from befalling upon us?
Hashem your God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; carefully observe them with all your heart and with all your soul. You have declared this day that Hashem is your God and that you will walk in His ways, that you will keep His decrees, commands and laws, and that you will obey Him. And Hashem has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as He promised, and that you are to keep all His commands. He has declared that He will set you in praise, renown and honor high above all the nations He has made and that you will be a people holy to Hashem, as He promised. (Devarim 26: 16-19) Hashem designed the world for one nation to be different than the others. We sometimes forget that that is the main credo of being part of the nation of Israel. Am Qaddosh, a separate holy nation, means that we need to act separate and different from the rest of the nations of the world. Obviously, this is easier said than done, for the influence of the gentile world is always upon us, especially in the Diaspora. In reading the final verse above, we notice an interesting repetition of similar concepts, Hashem will set us in praise, renown (fame), honor, etc. What does the verse need to specify all these different concepts? What do they mean? The Ramban explains: Praise - seeing that we are close to the Almighty, and always calling to him, the nations of the world will come to praise us;
Renown (fame)- that our name will go out among the gentiles and be a good name, a trustworthy name, a name that sanctifies the name of Hashem;
Splendor our nation will have such a good name, and relationship with the gentiles, that they will gladly help us and work with us on various projects; Be a holy people to Hashem that in the end of all this good, the result is our tight connection with Hashem.
Because the sin of rebelling against our divine status of being separate is so great and undermines our purpose, we need to be constantly aware and careful about how we may be emulating the ways of the goyim. For example, there used to be a practice in the community of putting on a fashion show, where young girls from our community would dress and show off their bodies in front of and audience. There has been a new practice of dance recitals, where our girls dance provocatively, while boys watch in excitement. Fathers watch their friends daughters. How can we allow such a display, a practice from the outside world, to run pervasive in our holy community? Should a father not look to protect his child and keep his teenage daughter safe from glances? Have we convinced ourselves that we need to display our daughters on a stage, doing inappropriate movements in order for them to find a hatan? Would such a marriage forged in these conditions even last?
We need to strengthen ourselves, and start asking hard questions about what we are doing, why we are doing it, and if we are truly following a Jewish way of life, or are we more excited to find ways to be like our friends who we live among us who are not Jewish?
Are we proud of our heritage, or do we hide it?
Are we looking to bring a more mainstream Jewish lifestyle (that we have established) to the rest of the Jewish world, or are we looking to turn our Modern Orthodoxy into something more modern and less orthodox?