Shabbat Thoughts- Parshat Kee Teitzay

Updated: Aug 5, 2020

Perhaps you have noticed that caterers, waitresses and waiters always enter a specific door and exit the opposite door. Entering and exiting the kitchen in a prescribed manner eliminates mistakes and helps to avoid accidents. It's a rule. It is a small rule but it can help to keep people safe and to prevent damage and financial losses. The same goes for work, school, hospitals, libraries, stores, businesses ,etc. We all need to know how to enter a building and how to begin a project as much as we need to know how to exit a building and conclude a project. Signage, training and peer pressure all help us to start and finish, exit and enter.

    This week's Parshah comes immediately on the heels of last week's Torah reading as all Parshiot do. However, there is a thematic link between these two Parshiot. Last week, we read Kee Teitzay which literally means "When you go out" and this week's Torah reading is Kee Tavo means "When you come in." Last week's Parshah of 'when you go out' describes the anticipated exit from the wilderness and preparing to take the first steps across the River Jordan. Uppermost in the minds of the Israelites will be combat and conquest of the land and, necessarily, rules concerning combat are set forth and a modicum of humane conduct during warfare is demanded.

    This week's Parshah, ‘When you come in' views life very differently. Taking for granted the fact that the Israelites have successfully defeated the Canaanites, the opening of this week's Parshah describes mitzvot associated with a bountiful harvest. Moses speaks presumptuously about the fact that the Israelites will have made the land their own, and after harvesting great gifts of produce, will perform two specific mitzvot.

    Upon successfully harvesting produce every Israelite farmer is expected to come to the Tabernacle or Shrine to give a basket of produce to the Kohen. Speaking publicly but not the words of a prayer, every Israelite will utter the exact same proclamation; describing his having left Egypt and becoming free he has worked the land and collected the crops.  Immediately, he presents the basket of produce to the Kohen and the next paragraph calls for him to share food with the poor, the widow and the stranger.

    The sequence is key. Having made his home secure and reaping the benefits of hard work, gratitude to God is expressed in two public manners; a personal proclamation whereby his own personal life story is entwined with history and fulfilling the essential mitzvah of feeding the hungry. Life is hard and we must fight to stay alive but if we do not share our food with those in need and we do not see ourselves as transforming history within our own experience, we have not fulfilled our life's work.  The sense of meaning in combat emerges from the hard work of weeding a garden, watering the crops, tending the plants and doing everything in our power to prompt the ground to share its life energy with us even as we share our own life energy with others.

    May we establish meaning in our lives by the manner in which we exit and the manner in which we enter locations and phases of our lives.

P.S. The observant reader of this email and last week's email will find one mistake when comparing the two. Have you found my error?

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