Parshat Ki Tavo – Upholding Codes of Conduct
By: Rabbi Aaron Bayer | Director Midreshet Torah V’Avodah
Moshe describes a dramatic ceremony that Am Yisrael is commanded to perform when they eventually cross into the Land of Israel that requires the public reading of curses and blessings. What is interesting is that the list of curses with which the ceremony begins is a litany of diverse crimes that seem unrelated. The crimes range from insulting parents, taking advantage of the blind, and subverting the trial of orphans, strangers, and widows among others. Ibn Ezra suggests that the common thread that binds all of these sundry crimes together is that they are all committed in secret and are almost impossible to prosecute.
The upshot of Ibn Ezra’s observation is that the source of blessing and curses for the Jewish People is their commitment to upholding the essential codes of conduct and norms of behavior that, while not always enforceable or actionable in a court of a law, are actually the most fundamental for the type of holy and ethical society that we are bidden to create. These standards demand that we think of both law and values and that we need to be concerned with what happens when we believe no one is looking.
This concept is critical for the teshuva season that we currently find ourselves in and has helped lay a foundation for a community that is both ethical and holy.
Shabbat Shalom!