Parshat Ki Tavo: Goodness to live in (II)

Moses reminds the children of Israel about the blessings and the curses, both under the principle of cause and effect; emphasizing that the Creator’s will determines all. Hence His creation is ruled by the ethics inherent in that principle. The lessons are quite compelling, for these are learned through the dynamics of empiricism.

“Cursed be the man that makes a graven or molten image, an abomination to the Lord; the work of the hands of the craftsman, and set it up in secret. And all the people shall answer and say, amen.” (Deuteronomy 27:15)

This is the first of several curses as warnings for the Jewish people, against living outside of God’s commandments, echoing the second commandment in the Decalogue. This one makes sense, as an introduction for the other curses in this portion of the Torah.

Denying God as the Creator of all leads to believe that other entities are gods as well, similar to Him in their own ways. This makes us reflect on the exclusivity of God, and what that means.

Hear Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One [and Unique]” is a statement for Israel about how exclusive God is, a reaffirmation that He is the ruling principle in His creation. We search what this principle means, and we find it in God’s ways and attributes, as well as in His commandments.

These are the exclusive traits the children of Israel are commanded to emulate and fulfill, as the ways to approach the Creator, life in this world, and our relation with each other. Following a different course or path, implies denying Him and rejecting Him, which upsets our bond with God.

This bond is broken when we, individually or collectively, engage in making “a graven or molten image”. This usually means something or someone that the image portrays or represents. Who or what that may be, would be considered an alternative choice to emulate and to follow, instead of the Creator, unfathomable and indescribable, for He only shows us the ethical attributes and ways with which He relates to His creation.

What that alternative choice may be? Something that comes only out of man’s own beliefs or imagination, usually derived from ego’s materialistic fantasies and illusions.

This takes us to point out the ethical principles and values of the goodness God wants us to pursue and live for. This, in contrast to what opposes it, as an alternative reality.

We have mentioned often that the blessings are inherent in goodness, and the curses belong to a negative approach to life. Goodness that belongs to God’s ways is our blessing, while the traits and trends of egotistic fantasies and illusions are the curses that deny goodness in life. These elevate as gods the materialistic pursues of coveting, envy, lust, wrath, haughtiness, indifference and indolence, rooted in beliefs or feelings of lack.

Thus one considers goodness not enough, insufficient, inadequate or deficient; equal to say that the Source of goodness is also all that. Idol worshipers believe in their deities, because they consider them more powerful than the Creator of all.

The “works of the hands” tell us that we create, invent and fabricate the alternative realities set up by ego’s fantasies and illusions. These are “set in secret”, meaning that they live in our individual imagination, and matter only to us. They belong to the realm and playground of what one chooses to believe, follow, revere, adore or serve, to the extreme of getting attached, obsessed and addicted to it.

Moses calls those “images” an abomination to God, because these are alien to goodness and the blessings of living in it. Goodness is the light promised to dwell in all aspects, facets and expressions of life, when the negative traits and trends of ego’s fantasies and illusions disappear, along with all forms of evil in the material world.

The Prophet reminds us this in the haftarah for this portion.

“Your sun shall no more go down, neither shall you moon withdraw itself. For the Lord shall be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended.” (Isaiah 60:20)

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.
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