Woodn’t You Know It: Ki Tavo 2022

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Have you ever been given a gift that turned out to be more of a burden? How about a punishment that turned out to be a blessing in disguise?

Among the litany of curses detailed in this week’s portion is that, should they abandon God, the Israelites will be forced to commit idolatry:

The Pitch: “יהוה will drive you, and the king you have set over you, to a nation unknown to you or your ancestors, where you shall serve other gods, of wood and stone.” – Deuteronomy 28:36

Swing #1: “This was their punishment. They would not be able to worship the true God but would have to serve idols.” – Reuven Hammer, Entering Jewish Prayer: A Guide to Personal Devotion and the Worship Service

Swing #2: “If David’s throne is secure forever, as II Samuel 7 and Psalm 89 stipulate, then YHWH’s punishment cannot include the overthrow and exile of the royal house of Judah. In Matitiahu Tsevat’s metaphor, ‘… if the existence of the confederacy, which is the body, is conditional, kingship, which is an organ, cannot be unconditional.’” – Jon D. Levenson, Sinai & Zion: An Entry Into the Jewish Bible SZ214

Swing #3: “I might almost say that [this verse] … contains an allusion to those who worship the wood, and those who worship the stones. We, through our sins, incline daily more toward them.” – Yehudah HaLevi, The Kuzari

Late-Inning Questions: Do you agree that this particular punishment for the Israelites is not as severe as it would initially appear? Are punishments that seem to be less hurtful become almost a relief? Do lighter punishments encourage or discourage better behavior?

On-Deck at TBT: The start of the High Holiday season is marked most prominently by Selihot. Temple Beth Tzedek invites everyone to come to the synagogue this Saturday, September 17th, for Havdallah at 8:30pm, followed by a learning session at 9:00 pm and the Selihot service at 10:00 pm.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of degrees of punishment, I’m grateful that Major League Baseball has held its ground in suspending Trevor Bauer for two years for his unacceptable treatment of women. Other sports leagues would do well to imitate this example for its own athletes and send the message that domestic violence must never be tolerated.

Shabbat Shalom!