Parshas Ki Savo

August 23, 2013                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ELUL 17, 5773
Candle-lighting Time: Between 6:20 pm and 7:26 pm


This edition of Sparks of Torah is dedicated in honor of Rabbi Adam and Shira Freedman, the new TJE Youth Outreach Coordinators.



The Sunday Experience 2013-2014 school year begins this Sunday morning at 10am.

High Holiday Experience 5774. Register now for meaningful services and speakers, musical guest chazzan, classes with Eve Levy, Rabbi Leban, Ellyn Hutt and Rabbi Levy, full youth programs and festive Kiddush.


Who’s Side Are You On?

Rabbi Leban

An acutely challenging time in the lives of many children is the choosing of teams on the playground or ball field. I still occasionally wake up in a cold sweat, gripped by a panic that I’ll be the last one picked. We all know what’s going to happen. The good players get picked first, and the rest of us just wait around hoping not to be that one about whom it is said, “Oh alright, we’ll take him.”

In this week’s parsha, the twelve tribes divvy up teams. They weren’t kidding when they said everything has its source in the Torah.

When the Jewish People first entered the Land of Israel, they were instructed to make a public show of allegiance to the Torah’s principles and laws. Half of the tribes were to gather on Mount Aival, and half on Mount Grizim. The Levites, together with the Cohanim and the Holy Ark, stood in the valley between them and lead the proceedings.

They faced Mount Grizim and proclaimed, “Blessed is he who upholds such and such a mitzvah,” to which the entire Jewish People answered, “Amen.” Then the Levites turned towards Mount Aival and said, “Cursed is he who doesn’t uphold that mitzvah,” and the people answered, “Amen.”

How were the tribes divided up into groups? Explain our Sages, by weaker and stronger. Six on one mountain, six on the other.

Our parsha selects a few particular mitzvahs for the declaration. Many of those deal with forbidden relationships, including incest and bestiality. Upon each one’s mention, the people affirmed with their ‘Amens’ that ‘blessed is he who doesn’t do it, and cursed is he who does it.’

Question: What value could there be to announcing that a person who doesn’t transgress a prohibition that’s really easy to keep will be blessed. Or that a person who transgresses something that’s very difficult to keep will be cursed?

Answered Rabbi Eliyahu KiTov, it matters what team you’re on. For the spiritually weaker tribes, it’s inspiring to be reminded that we are rewarded for not transgressing even the easy ones. When the tougher ones are a struggle, at least the easy ones will bring us some recompense.

For the spiritually stronger tribes, it was important to be reminded that even for the most significant and challenging mitzvahs, there is an obligation to rise to the challenge and to fulfill them with dedication and joy. To rise to the very top of human spiritual potential takes constant inspiration and self-disciplined effort.

These two lessons are in fact ideal for all of us as we approach the Days of Awe (Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur). We shouldn’t become discouraged by the mistakes or the poor showing we’ve made this past year. We should reflect on the good things that we have done and know that they are worthy of reward in the eyes of our Creator.

And, in those things that we’ve succeeded at, we must remember that there are harder things out there and higher levels of achievement that we are responsible to accomplish. What may seem tough is nonetheless within our potential, if we put in the effort.

No matter where we fall out in the roster when the teams are divvied up.



Rabbi Nussbaum

Moshe strikes fear into the heart of the nation with a lengthy list of curses if we fail to adhere to the Torah’s commandments. The consequences of disobeying the Torah are so severe that the ancient Aramaic commentary of Yonasan ben Uziel notes that the entire creation trembled and quivered at hearing them. The Patriarchs called out from their graves in pity for their children, lest they transgress the Torah. Perhaps they would be incapable of contending with the dire circumstances that would come, and lack sufficient merit to protect them. Who would be able to daven on their behalf and stave off these dreadful punishments?

Yonasan ben Uziel also says that a Heavenly voice called out, saying that if the merits of the Jewish people would not be adequate to save them, the merits of the Patriarchs would. He says further that Moshe explained to the nation that although he enumerated numerous curses, they would only be relevant if the nation refused to observe the Torah.

Why was Moshe assuring the nation that the curses were only for rejection of the Torah? Did we really believe that these curses would befall us whether or not we deserved them?

Perhaps we need to consider how we access the merits of our forebears and their protection. When we emulate them and endeavor to elevate ourselves to their level of holiness then we merit their protection from our woes. What were the values upon which their lives were predicated? The Talmud teaches that the Patriarchs ran before Hashem ‘like gazelles that pranced upon the islets.’ What did the Sages mean by this particular metaphor?

Perhaps we may suggest that their intent was to portray the totality of their commitment and dedication to Hashem’s will. They did not waver upon encountering difficulties, their resolve was firm and they always sought to elevate their lives to a plateau of spectacular achievement and Divine service. Their entire essence was devoted to Hashem’s ‘slightest whim’ and they acknowledged their humility in face of the tremendous scope of Hashem’s grandeur.

This is the legacy which has made us great and will continue to lead and instruct generations for years to come. If we commit ourselves to their guidance, we will enhance our lives and transmit to our children our wonderful heritage and the bounty that awaits them.

Indeed, we may on occasion stray from the beaten path and err. However, if our essence remains pure and our intent is to serve to the best of our ability, then the curses will not affect us and we will be immune to destruction. We will gain the support of our Patriarchs and the ensuing generations that risked their lives to observe and preserve the beauty of our Torah.


Joke of the Week

What is the longest word in the English language?

SMILES – There is a mile between the first and last letters!

A Question for the Rabbis

Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef was asked if there is an obligation for the community to fast if they witness a Torah scroll falling. In a characteristically exhaustive discussion of the subject, he cites the Jerusalem Talmud that the verse “Cursed is he who does not uphold the words of this Torah” (Deuteronomy 27:26) is referring to one who does not ensure that the Torah scroll is lifted and shown to the community in a proper fashion. Some maintain that if the Torah scroll fell, the community should fast in order to “change from cursed to blessed.” However, his conclusion is that the fast is not obligatory, and certainly for those who are weak, old or sick, who teach Torah or are hired workers, it would be preferable to redeem the fast by giving the value of the food eaten that day to charity. He also suggests that, better than fasting, the community should assemble and declare a day of not speaking about anything but Torah or absolute necessities (Responsa Yabia Omer 2:28).



The Torah tells us that we will sometimes experience challenges and deprivations. However, it also tell us how to escape them. If we turn our attention to others by spending time with them and teaching them Torah, will be spared.