Parshat Ki Tavo: The goodness to live in

“That you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the soil which you will bring from your land, that the Lord your God is giving you. And you shall put [them] into a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose to have His Name dwell there.” (Deuteronomy 26:2)

All that is belongs to the Creator of all, and all that is must be constantly aware of that. Our sense of individuality takes us to unimaginable beliefs only possible in the playing grounds of ego’s fantasies and illusions. Indeed, imagination is the endless field where one is the god of his own creations until he begins to live the reality God has created for all, known as the material world.

No matter how hard reality hits us, most of us continue to stick to our individual fantasies and illusions that sooner or later bring us back to what truly is. Hence our greatest challenge as individual beings is to assimilate the simple facts of reality, which are that we don’t own anything because we will die without taking anything; and that we are in this world as visitors to use what is available for us to live the best way possible. This simple reality-check involves guidelines and ground rules that most of us disregard in the name of our own ego’s fantasies and illusions.

God gave us the Torah to learn how we have to deal with the reality God created for us. In order to simplify the complexities of the guidelines and ground rules of the Torah, we apply common sense (usually the less common of the senses) and focus in goodness as what really matters in life. With this introduction we begin to approach the verse quoted above, for God wants us to be as good as the land He has given us, and also to remind us that what He has created belongs only to Him.

As we live in the realm of goodness by living in its ways, means, attributes and expressions, we are destined to only harvest the fruits of goodness that God requires from us to “give” Him back. Thus we assimilate the partnership He has with us by giving us the privilege of being co-creators with Him.

The more we expand and diversify the power of being and doing what is right and proper as the ethical frames of goodness, we certainly glorify and sanctify our Creator. Thus we confirm what the Torah means when it tells us that God created Man in His image and likeness. Goodness is such image and likeness as the ethical principle of God’s creation.

“Then, you shall rejoice with all the goodness that the Lord your God has given you and your household; you, the Levite, and the stranger who is among you.” (26:11)

It may sound redundant that God commands us to rejoice and be happy with goodness, for who does not enjoy the blessings and kindnesses of goodness? This is to make ourselves constantly aware that living a life in, with, by and for goodness is not only what guarantees our sustenance and well being in this world, but is indeed the permanent bond with our Creator that we must never forget.

“Then you shall say before the Lord your God, ‘I have removed the sacred [portion] from the house, and I have also given it to the Levite, the stranger, the orphan, and the widow, according to all Your commandment that You commanded me. I have not transgressed Your commandments nor have I forgotten’.” (26:13)

Again we are reminded that goodness is not an individual benefit or asset, but something that makes sense only if is shared and expanded to all in this world. We must be aware that God gave us goodness as the ruling principle of His creation, and therefore He commands us to be, to have, to manifest and to share goodness for the sake of goodness, and not for our own individual satisfaction.

“Behold what I saw it is good, yea, it is beautiful to eat and drink and to experience goodness with all his toil that he toils under the sun, the number of the days of his life that God gave him, for that [goodness] is his portion.” (Ecclesiastes 5:17)

We can also understand that we “have not transgressed or forgotten them”, not only in regards to God’s commandments, but also in regards to our fellow orphan, widow, stranger and Levite. Transgressing against others’ needs is also a way to transgress against goodness as God’s encompassing commandment. In this complete awareness we ask Him to renew constantly for us the blessings of His goodness, which are indeed milk and honey.

“Look down from Your holy dwelling, from the heavens, and bless Your people Israel, and the soil that You have given to us, as You swore to our forefathers a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Deuteronomy 26:15)

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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