Ki Tavo 5783 – Darashti
In one of the most famous lines from one of my all time favorite movies, Ferris Bueller looks directly at the camera and says to us, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” It seems cliche at this point, but, as I’ve mentioned a few times already in these writings, I believe this is a core tenet of Judaism – living life with awareness and intention. Judaism makes life meaningful. We say brachot to notice and mark important moments in our lives, whether that moment is a holiday, lighting candles, seeing a rainbow, or even meeting a new person or seeing a friend after a long time.
In this week’s parashah, Ki Tavo, the people of Israel are at the periphery, about to enter into the land of Israel. They receive laws about how to treat each other and the stranger in their midst, and listen to a very long list of curses (the tochecha) and blessings they may or may not receive should they follow God’s law. Moses says to the people of Isreal,
“וּבָאוּ עָלֶיךָ כָּל הַבְּרָכוֹת הָאֵלֶּה וְהִשִּׂיגֻךָ כִּי תִשְׁמַע בְּקוֹל ה’ אֱלֹהֶיךָ (דְּבָרִים כח:ב)”
“And all of these blessings will come to you and catch up to you (catch you) because you listened to the voice of your God (Deut. 28:2)”
The word הִשִּׂיגֻךָ is usually translated as “will be achieved” or “will come to be.” But the Chasidic commentator Degel Machaneh Ephraim (Moshe Chaim Ephraim of Sudilkov 1748-1800) translates it as “catch up to you.” He says,
הָאָדָם בְּקֹצֶר דַּעְתּוֹ יֵשׁ שֶׁהוּא בּוֹרֵחַ מִן הַטּוֹב, כִּי אֵינֶנּוּ יוֹדֵעַ שֶׁטּוֹב הוּא לוֹ, עַל כֵּן הִתְפַּלֵּל דָּוִד “אַךְ טוֹב וָחֶסֶד יִרְדְּפוּנִי,” מֵחֲמַת שֶׁאֵינִי יוֹדֵעַ לִפְעָמִים לִרְדֹּף אַחֲרֵי הַטּוֹב וְהַחֶסֶד, יִהְיוּ הֵם רוֹדְפִים אַחֲרַי וּמַשִּׂיגִים אוֹתִי. זֶהוּ שֶׁאָמְרָה תּוֹרָה: “וּבָאוּ עָלֶיךָ כָּל הַבְּרָכוֹת הָאֵלֶּה וְהִשִּׂיגֻךָ,” הֵם יָבוֹאוּ אֵלֶיךָ וְיַשִּׂיגוּ אוֹתְךָ.
A person sometimes, perhaps due to lack of judgment or understanding, runs away from the good. Maybe they don’t know that this thing is good for them. This is why David prayed, “surely goodness and kindness will chase after me” because sometimes I don’t know/don’t realize that I should be chasing after the goodness and the kindness, so instead it chases after me and catches up to me. And that’s what the Torah means when it says, “All of these blessings will catch up to you,” they will come to you and catch up to you.
The Degel Machaneh Ephraim must have seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off! Our lives are moving by so fast and we have so many things vying for our attention at all times. We are so inundated that we often don’t even give ourselves time to think or breathe and we fall deeper into despair. If we stop the pursuit of happiness, of money, of fame, of success, for a minute and allow ourselves to take stock, we give ourselves the greatest gift: the opportunity to notice the blessings, the friendships, the love, the small miracles in our lives that we sometimes feel we are too busy for or don’t have time for.
These blessings are looking for us – they are chasing after us. If only we can pause for a moment to notice their presence. This song, Darashti, is a Shabbat zemer that I wrote for my wife Adina for our wedding. It is based on a Yehudah Halevi poem called Ya Ana Emtza’acha, “where might I go to find you?” The chorus says, “דָּרַשְׁתִּי קִרְבָתְךָ בְּכָל לִבִּי קְרָאתִיךָ וּבְצֵאתִי לִקְרָאתְךָ לִקְרָאתִי מְצָאתִיךָ” “I sought your nearness, with all my heart I yearned to be close to you. And when I went out searching for you, I found you already coming towards me.” Love, blessings, hope, success – they’re all waiting for us if we can notice their presence and reach out.
As we move through Elul and closer to the High Holidays, take a moment to pause and note the blessings in your life – maybe even write them down! What blessings are you grateful for over the past year, and what blessings can you set an intention for in the year to come?