Ki Tavo — When you believe…
ט֗וֹב לְהֹד֥וֹת לַיהֹוָ֑ה וּלְזַמֵּ֖ר לְשִׁמְךָ֣ עֶלְיֽוֹן׃
It is good to praise the LORD, to sing hymns to Your name, O Most High,
לְהַגִּ֣יד בַּבֹּ֣קֶר חַסְדֶּ֑ךָ וֶ֝אֱמ֥וּנָתְךָ֗ בַּלֵּילֽוֹת׃
To proclaim Your steadfast love at daybreak, Your faithfulness each night.
My teacher, Even Leader, once gave a Drash on psalms 92 saying that the juxtaposition of daybreak and love, faithfulness and night was not without meaning.
When the day is bright and new, when there is light for us to see for miles, it is not hard to see God’s kindness in the world and for us to proclaim our love. But at days end, when the night is long when darkness surrounds us, and no end seems to be in sight — that is when we must fall back on our faith to get by. Faith is a powerful tool; it allows us to move mountains that we could not move. It enables us to face fears that we had no chance of overcoming. When you believe, you can overcome anything the world throws at you.
Our Parsha, Ki Tavo — ends with interesting introversion on faith. Moses speaks to the new generation, to those who are about to enter the Holy Land. He reflects upon them the actions of their parent’s generation and says on to them:
וְלֹא־נָתַן֩ יְהֹוָ֨ה לָכֶ֥ם לֵב֙ לָדַ֔עַת וְעֵינַ֥יִם לִרְא֖וֹת וְאׇזְנַ֣יִם לִשְׁמֹ֑עַ עַ֖ד הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה׃
Yet to this day, the LORD has not given you the heart to understand, eyes to see, or ears to hear.
The commentators reflect on this odd choice of words to teach a lesson about faith. So often, we rationalise that those who witness miracles would be of great faith. Yet the Desert Generation saw some of the greatest miracles and was of very little faith despite seeing them. Furthermore, we have seen that our people had great faith in some of our darkest times.
At the end of his journey, Moses comes to teach us that the relationship between faith and miracles is not as we may have thought. Rather than faith stemming from miracles, it is when you have faith that miracles are everywhere to be seen.
Yehuda Amichai — in his book “Miracles” shares a similar mind to Rashi in his comments on this verse:
ֵמרָחוֹק כָּל דָּבָר נִרְאֶה נֵס
אֲבָל מִקָּרוֹב גַם נֵס לֹא נִרְאֶה כָּךְ.
אֲפִילוּ מִי שֶעָבַר בְּיַם-סוּף בִּבְקִיעַת הַיָּם
רָאָה רַק אֶת הַגַּב הַמֵּזִיעַ
שֶל ההוֹלֵך לְפָנָיו ואת נוע ירכיו הגדולות...”
“From afar, everything seems like a miracle. But from up close, it does not appear that way. Even those crossing the Red Sea saw only the sweating back of the person before them and the movement of their big thighs.”
In verse above, Moses tells the new generation that not only will their faith be great despite not seeing the same magnitude of miracles, but that their miracles may seem small only because they are close to them. Distance obscures our miracles, and it is only by our choice in faith to see them for what they are.
We live today in very uncertain times. In many ways, we are deep within the night, and for many of us our future is uncertain. We are also at summers end; the days are getting shorter, the nights longer. This is a time when we must turn to faith. When I say faith, I don’t mean religion; the two are different but are often confused with one another. Religion may be a tool that one turns to in search of faith — but it is not a purpose onto itself, and it is not the only option. It doesn’t matter if one finds faith in God, Tao, Chi, E = mc2 or in other people. But it is important that when times are uncertain, they turn to faith; for if not, they give way to their fears — and these can consume all that is beautiful in our world.
In a related story. I once walked Grandma to a park near her home. We were hardly halfway there when she commanded me to stop. “Do you see that bench? Yes, that one, let’s sit there,” she said, pointing towards a bench halfway up the hill.
I tried to protest, reminding her that the park was just a few more minutes up the hill and that it is much nicer. “We will sit here for a few minutes, and then we can continue,” She said decisively. When my grandmother made a decision, not even the Queen of England could change her mind.
“Come help me out”, she commanded, “and make sure to sit next to my good ear so that I can hear you.”
I helped her out and sat beside her.
Grandma closed her eyes, and took a deep breath of the cool air and let it out with a sigh of relief. Then she opened her eyes slowly and looked around till a group of young trees across the path caught her gaze.
“Aren’t they nice?” She said, pointing to them.
“It’s so beautiful here, don’t you think?”
I followed her gaze across the path and looked at the pitiful sad excuse of the sidewalk shrubbery before us. The trees were small, bent over and from the looks of it, half dead. I hesitated a moment before replying but then took her hand and smiled.
“Yes, Grandma, it is a beautiful place” — because when you are young, sometimes you need older people who see life from a distance, to open your eyes to the miracles and remind you that the world is indeed a beautiful place.
This week, my Brother Amishar married the one who has been his home almost since the day he met her. In the spirit of this Parsha — I want to take this moment to bless them both.
Amishar and Chelsea,
I pray you two always find a way to hold on to your faith. The faith you have in one another, the faith you have in your community and the faith you have in God and our world. All relationships require a lot of work and constant up-keeping. Sometimes you two will stand in happiness in the mornings of your life, the world as a whole at your feet — Everything will seem bright and new — and you will feel gratitude and give thanks almost intuitively. But relationships are not always easy. At times they will wade through dark times; sometimes, the future will seem vague and bleak. I pray that at these moments are few and that when they visit — that you hold steady in your faith, that you don’t lose the capacity to see miracles, that you recognise the beauty that exists between you two and much like the Israelite's standing at the doorsteps of the Holy Land, build your new home with it.
Our Parsha teaches us that miracles and beauty exist everywhere. Left, right and centre of the joint path you both walk on. If you make the choice to see, hear and know in your heart — No obstacle will ever be a challenge for you two.