August 2018, Parshat Ki Tavo

Dear friends,

This week’s Parsha, Parshat Ki Tavo, is famous for the longest and most detailed recitation in the entire Torah, of bloodcurdling curses of those who stray from the path. At this point, all I wanted to do was give a few examples of some of the worst of these. That you shall eat the flesh of your children would definitely make it in. So would the spine-chilling twist of even a worse scenario that you refuse to share the meat of your child with your other children and partner. But I started reading and could not stop. I, therefore, feel that the full extent of the horror can only be grasped upon reading much of the portion more or less.

You might along the way be overtaken with emotional exclamations like OMG, NBW, and other three letter expressions. And you might have a point too, it’s so frightening and brutal. But the point is to feel its intensity one must go on the journey. To that end, I am going to quote the some of the curses for your leisurely reading. I invite you to bring your resulting questions to Shule over Yom Tov with any associated thoughts. You will definitely hear me discussing such ideas of reward and punishment on the day we stand to be judged.

“But if you do not obey the LORD your God to observe faithfully all His commandments and laws which I enjoin upon you this day, all these curses shall come upon you and take effect:
Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
Cursed shall be the issue of your womb and the produce of your soil, the calving of your herd and the lambing of your flock.
The LORD will let loose against you calamity, panic, and frustration in all the enterprises you undertake, so that you shall soon be utterly wiped out because of your evildoing in forsaking Me.
The LORD will strike you with consumption, fever, and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew; they shall hound you until you perish.
The skies above your head shall be copper and the earth under you iron.
Your carcasses shall become food for all the birds of the sky and all the beasts of the earth, with none to frighten them off.
The LORD will strike you with the Egyptian inflammation, with haemorrhoids, boil-scars, and itch, from which you shall never recover.
The LORD will strike you with madness, blindness, and dismay.
You shall grope at noon as a blind man gropes in the dark; you shall not prosper in your ventures, but shall be constantly abused and robbed, with none to give help.
If you pay the bride-price for a wife, another man shall enjoy her. If you build a house, you shall not live in it. If you plant a vineyard, you shall not harvest it.
Your sons and daughters shall be delivered to another people, while you look on; and your eyes shall strain for them constantly, but you shall be helpless.
The LORD will afflict you at the knees and thighs with a severe inflammation, from which you shall never recover—from the sole of your foot to the crown of your head.
Though you plant vineyards and till them, you shall have no wine to drink or store, for the worm shall devour them.
Though you have olive trees throughout your territory, you shall have no oil for anointment, for your olives shall drop off.
Though you beget sons and daughters, they shall not remain with you, for they shall go into captivity.
You shall have to serve—in hunger and thirst, naked and lacking everything—the enemies whom the LORD will let loose against you. He will put an iron yoke upon your neck until He has wiped you out.
You shall eat the flesh of your sons and daughters that the LORD your God has assigned to you, because of the desperate straits to which your enemy shall reduce you.
He who is most tender and fastidious among you shall be too mean to his brother and the wife of his bosom and the children he has spared to share with any of them the flesh of the children that he eats, because he has nothing else left as a result of the desperate straits to which your enemy shall reduce you in all your towns.
The LORD will inflict extraordinary plagues upon you and your offspring, strange and lasting plagues, malignant and chronic diseases.
Moreover, the LORD will bring upon you all the other diseases and plagues that are not mentioned in this book of Teaching, until you are wiped out.
You shall be left a scant few, after having been as numerous as the stars in the skies, because you did not heed the command of the LORD your God.
The LORD will scatter you among all the peoples from one end of the earth to the other.
Yet even among those nations you shall find no peace, nor shall your foot find a place to rest. The LORD will give you there an anguished heart and eyes that pine and a despondent spirit.
The life you face shall be precarious; you shall be in terror, night and day, with no assurance of survival.
In the morning you shall say, “If only it were evening!” and in the evening you shall say, “If only it were morning!”—because of what your heart shall dread and your eyes shall see.
The LORD will send you back to Egypt in galleys, by a route which I told you, you should not see again. There you shall offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but none will buy.” (Devarim chapters 27, 28)

Sweet dreams.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Shneur