Friday- Shabbat, September 23 - 24

Torah Reading: Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1 - 29:8)

HaftorahIsaiah 60:1- 22

Shabbat Selichot

Shabbat Candle Lighting: 6:44 PM
Shabbat Ends: 7:41 PM


Halachic Times

Earliest Tefillin: 6:03 AM (latest of the week)
Latest Shma: 9:44 AM (earliest of the week)

For all halachic times, see



 Ki Tavo






Hidden Blessings!

 “Your life will hang in the balance, and you will be frightened night and day, and you will not be certain about your life.”

This week’s parsha contains some of the harshest threats of pain and suffering for the Jewish people if they fail to follow G‑d’s commandments.  This verse is one.

In truth, this section, called the Tochecha (rebuke), can be read on two levels. On the first level these harsh admonitions sound like horrific curses intended to jolt us out of our reverie and take life seriously.

On a higher and deeper level, however, these “curses” are actually sublime, but hidden, blessings; even more powerful than any of the overt blessings in the Torah. To capture the positive dimension, one has to dig deep beneath the surface of these “curses.”

How can we possibly interpret the abovementioned verse in a positive vein? How can insecurity and fear be positive attributes?

To discover a positive message in this verse we must first have a better and deeper understanding of its simple meaning.


Depending on the Market and Baker

According to Rashi, who cites the words of the Talmud (Menachos 103b), the fear spoken of in the first part of the verse refers to “one who buys produce from the market.” The fear here is the uncertainty that is caused by not having one’s own produce, having to depend solely on the market.

The next part of the verse, “you will not be certain of your life,” Rashi continues, refers to “one who relies on the baker.”

These fears appear to be redundant. The common denominator of these curses is that the people will not have their own produce or baked goods. Why does the Torah divide this curse into two?

Another question is, after going through over 50 grueling verses of the most horrific curses, maybe having to depend on the market and baker doesn’t sound like such a potent curse.

One may answer the second question by realizing that it is doubt that makes all the other curses much more difficult to bear.

Even in times of suffering, humans have the uncanny ability to develop a tolerance for pain. But when the pain and suffering is augmented by doubt and uncertainty, it makes all the suffering much more acute and intolerable.

But the question still remains.  There are far more serious doubts than the uncertainty of having to depend on markets and bakers.  Almost all of modern society is relieved that they don’t have to do strenuous farm work and can depend on the markets and bakers.


Spiritual Produce and Baked Goods

Perhaps the verse here actually refers to moral and spiritual produce. The curse is that we have to get it from the “outside.”

There are two sources from which we can get our direction in life: It can come from the outside, from the “marketplace” of ideas or it can come from within our own teachings and from within our own souls.

This then is what the verse means when it says, “Your life will hang in the balance.” Your life (spiritual life, which can then affect your physical life as well) will be insecure because you will not have direction. And the reason you will lack direction is that you depend on the “market,” which is inundated with a plethora of different and conflicting messages.

Insecurity caused by the fragmentation and proliferation of ideas is the hallmark of Galus-exile. When we had our Holy Temple, in the days of King Solomon, all of the nations paid homage to him. The “marketplace” was, to a significant measure, subordinated to the principles of Torah, or, at least was bending in that direction. However, when Solomon fell into excesses and allowed the foreign influences of his wives to encroach on his turf, his Kingdom was split into two, a division that sowed the seeds of exile.

With the imminent Final Redemption, Torah will be restored as the singular influence in our lives and in the lives of all society. It will therefore be a blissful existence, free of doubts, insecurities and conflicts.

Thus, if we had to characterize the difference between exile and Redemption we could say, exile is division and Redemption is unity.

The famous Talmudic Sage, Rabbi Yoseph, celebrated the Festival of Shavuos, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah, with much excitement. The reason he offered for this celebration was: “If not for this day, there would be many Josephs in the marketplace.” He meant that if not for the Torah he would have been one Joseph among many other Josephs. Torah made him unique.

Why did Rabbi Yoseph stress the word “marketplace?” He could have just said, “if not for this day there would have been many Josephs.”

If not for the Torah we would have been compelled to sort out the bombardment of conflicting influences coming at us from all different directions in the marketplace. Our lives would always be hanging in the balance, swinging from one direction to another; never knowing which one is correct.

Given this interpretation of the verse, the curse here is not confined to the lack of certainty about one’s supply of food but the uncertainty of life itself.


No Night and Day

The verse then continues to explain what this uncertainty does to us:

“…and you will be frightened night and day.”

As the next verse clarifies:

“In the morning you will say, who can give evening, and in the evening you will say, who can give morning.”

The underlying message here is that “day” and “night” represent different approaches to life. Night and day demand different modes of behavior and even dress. But, when we are exposed to the marketplace of ideas, we cannot know when to live a day life and when to live a night life. Our schedules and priorities are skewed and we cannot grow spiritually. 


 Believe in Yourself

The verse then continues:

“…and you will not be certain about your life.”

As mentioned, Rashi interprets this as having to depend on the baker.

The difference between a baker and the market is that the market provides us with raw material whereas the baker sells us fully baked products.

The metaphor of the baker is that while in exile we depend on the volatile and conflicted marketplace for guidance in life.  This brings us great uncertainty, but it gets much worse than that. Even when we have the finished product given to us, when we have fully baked knowledge, knowledge that was generated by the heat and warmth of Torah, we will not be able to internalize it. It will feel that it is an outside influence and not home baked. It will seem alien to us.

When people feel that what they have been given is not in sync with who they are, they cannot feel satisfied.

Thus, the verse (translated literally) says:

”You will not believe in your life.”

You will feel empty and undernourished even by the bread of Torah. Even the tastiest of Torah pastries will not bring enjoyment because in Galus your palate has been desensitized to the culinary delights of Torah. You will not get satisfaction because Galus conditions have caused us to lose touch with our souls. Moreover, even the Torah that we are able to learn may be tainted with Galus vision. 

For us to get the most from Torah we have to feel that we have a soul, that it is in the right place and that the Torah is indeed ours. But when we are suffused with such self-doubt, all the nourishment that comes from the Torah will not fulfill us and it will not allow us to escape from Galus.


On the Threshold

We have now arrived at a positive way of viewing this verse because the Torah has essentially provided us with the diagnosis of our problem. Simply knowing the root cause of our malady is half the cure.

When we know that doubts in our lives stem from our insistence on getting our knowledge, values and ideologies from the marketplace, from the world of Galus-exile, all we have to do is turn to the one unifying influence:  the Torah and the way it will dominate the imminent period of Geulah-Redemption.

As mentioned in many of these essays, the Hebrew word for Redemption is the same as the word for exile, except that it has an added letter aleph, which means one. The world of Redemption is a world of oneness and unity.

The Rebbe informed us repeatedly that we are standing on the “threshold of Redemption.”

What does the imagery of standing on a threshold suggest?


Look Inside!

We can either direct our gaze inward so we see the Geulah in front of us or we can turn our backs and see things through the prism of exile, even as we are but millimeters away from Geulah. This verse implores us not to get our vision from the exile marketplace.

Furthermore, the difference between exile and redemption is that exile is a state of alienation from ourselves, from our very souls, whereas in Redemption we shall be in touch with our souls.  In that state of Galus-produced alienation, even fully baked pastries of Torah and Chassidus do not satisfy our needs.

To get out of exile, we have to “bake our own bread and cakes.” We have to believe in our own souls. We cannot rely solely on G‑d’s promise to schlep us out of the quagmire of Galus; we have our own important part to play.  We must ignite our souls and invest the heat and fire of our souls in the performance of Mitzvos and passion for Moshiach.

The Torah beckons us: Look inside the world of Geulah; look inside your own soul and you’ll discover unity!



Moshiach Matters:


Maimonides describes Yom Kippur as "the time of teshuva (repentance) for all; for individuals as well as the community." The ultimate expression of this motif will come in the era of the Redemption when, as the Zohar, the fundamental text of Jewish mysticism, teaches, Moshiach will motivate even the righteous to turn to G‑d in teshuva.