Ki Tavo: The Torah Portion of 9/11

Did you know that there is (way more than) a hint to 9/11 in this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo?

I remember like it was yesterday.

I was on my way into NYC to get a visa for the Ukraine, in hopes of spending Rosh Hashanah in Uman for the first time with thousands of others by the grave of Rebbe Nachman.

I stopped by parents’ house on the way, to retrieve my passport which I had left there. As I was about to leave, the phone rang. Though I didn’t usually pick up their phone, this time I did. It was my mom. She told me not to go into the city. I asked her why and she told me, “Turn on the television and you’ll see.”

That’s when I saw the first tower in flames. We didn’t yet know that America was in the middle of well planned terror attack.

A few minutes later, I watched in absolute shock and horror as the second plane crashed into the second tower.

Within about 90 minutes both towers had dropped to the ground.

The world stood still.

That was a Tuesday morning.

A few days later, on Shabbat, everybody was talking about it.

“It” meaning, of course, the attacks and the new reality we had suddenly entered. But there was another “it” that everyone couldn’t believe and couldn’t stop talking about.

This second “it” was the fact that the Torah portion that week, Ki Tavo, which is this week’s Torah portion, enumerates a horrifying and long list of curses that will come upon the world if we don’t do what we are meant to do in this world.

At the end of this chilling list are the following verses:

“…a nation from a far, from the end of the earth, as an eagle will swoop, a nation whose language you will not understand…will besiege you in all your cities until the collapse of your high and fortified walls in which you trust…”


A nation from afar…

Whose language you don’t understand…

Will swoop down like an eagle…

And take out the high places in which you placed your trust…

What the???

Can it be that the Torah knew this was going to happen?

Is it just coincidence??

Did God know that a day like 9/11 would curse the Earth?

If you ask me, I would say yes. But not because God chose it. But rather, because we humans chose it.

You see, the way I understand the Torah, based on the teachings I have been fortunate to learn, is that the Torah is not just a book of laws, not just a list of do’s and don’ts. Rather, it’s a spiritual map and blueprint for the entire world. The mystical tradition teaches us that God looked into the Torah and then created the world. Huh?? How could God look into the Torah before the world, and the Torah, were created?? That’s a hard to answer question if we just look at the Torah as a scroll with words written on it. But if we look at the Torah as a series of letters that forms layers and layers of secrete codes that have embedded in them everything that ever was, is and will be, then that question is no longer even a question. It becomes obvious that everything is contained within the Torah.

Now, does it mean that 9/11 had to happen?

Absolutely not.

It was a potential built into the world. A possibility that humans could choose through their own actions.

And clearly, we did.

Now of course we aren’t the terrorists or those supporting them.

Of course, we are on the side of goodness and peace.

But, as a human race we have collectively made decisions over thousands of years that have created a reality in which war and famine and competition and hate and racism is commonplace.

But, again, it didn’t have to be that way.

And it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Torah’s most powerful teaching, perhaps, is that God created us humans with the exceptional quality and ability to co-partner in the creation of reality. What we do affects the way the world works. How we act today directly and strongly impacts the future.

If we humans had chosen and acted differently in the past, then this week’s Torah portion read in 2001 would have come and gone without the stunning realization that this ultimate curse has come true.

But that’s not the world we inherited and participated in creating.

In the world we created, that curse did come true.

We saw it come true with our own eyes as the Twin Towers burned and then collapsed.

Many people experienced this curse directly with the loss of loved ones.

That, unfortunately, we can’t change.


I think the teaching of this week’s Torah portion from now on can be and has to be the fact that we can transform the world into a different world than the one we inherited from the generations that came before us.

If we think differently, if we act differently, if become different kinds of human beings, ones that are more human, more humane, than other, more positive and constructive potential realities that are hidden within the words, the codes, of the Torah will come true and will become the world that we know.

Those potentialities, those realities, are waiting for us to bring them to life.

The question is…will we?

Shabbat Shalom.

About the Author
Akiva Gersh moved to Israel from New York in 2004 and has been working in the field of Jewish and Israel Education for over 20 years. In 2020 he founded @Israel to share his love and passion for Israel with students, schools and communities around the world through his online classes, courses and virtual tours of Israel. Akiva is also the editor of the book "Becoming Israeli" (, a compilation of essays that gives an inside look at the unique experience of making aliyah and the journey of acclimating to life in Israel. He also created a social media platform called "Vegan Rabbi" through which he teaches about Jewish teachings related to health, animal welfare and environmental stewardship. Akiva lives in Pardes Hanna with his wife Tamar and their four kids.
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