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   by Jacob Solomon

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'Cursed is the one who will not uphold the words of the Torah to perform them. And the entire people shall say Amen' (27:26).

This is the final curse that was to be proclaimed by the Levites facing Mount Eival, when the Israelites entered the Promised Land under Joshua. It follows eleven more specific curses upon those guilty of wrongdoing, such as idolatry in secret, perverting justice, incestuous relationships, and the more subtle form of theft (moving the boundary of a neighbor's land). These wrongdoings are the type that may be committed by powerful individuals who are beyond the reach of law-enforcement authorities (Sforno). The Ramban explains the words: "Cursed is the one who will not uphold the words of the Torah to perform them" as referring to a person who has the capacity to influence people for good, but chooses not to do so.

This idea may be developed further by translating the words hatorah hazot; literally, "this Torah". Hatorah hazot means the Torah in its entirety, as opposed to the practice of powerful and influential people at their worst - those who enforce the parts and their interpretations of the Torah that will bolster up their ego, power, and social status and disregard (and often openly transgress) the rest. These words are directed at a person who selects and applies the laws of the Torah like the rules of economics, for personal gain in socio-religious status. This is explained below.

Some socio-religious popular ones might be pilpul (the casuistry hair-splitting arguments popular amongst traditional-type yeshiva boys). At worst, the capacity of being a mechadesh - coming up with a new, original interpretation of the gemara is used to promote the vital subtext: "Look at me! I am budding talmid chacham and I want the best shidduch". That same person may neglect understanding the text of the gemara and getting any clear idea of the sugya, because these are not the "things" that "pay". And that applies even more to knowledge and understanding of fundamental Torah knowledge such as Navi, which does not lend itself to brownie points on the socio-religious ladder. He could well lack utterly basic Torah knowledge because efforts in gaining it would not enhance socio-religious status.

Others may be the imposition of power-enhancing chumrot (stringencies) which enhance the perpetrator's power status ("my hechser is better than your hechsher because of chumra X"). Or grossly excessive tzeniut in the dress code. The instigator gains in his society by getting the credit of being a worthy machmir in imposing a chumra. Getting a name for this sort of thing can yield him the top prizes when he marries his children off. And the consumer-follower increases status in oily showing-off how holy he is by taking on his chumreleh and implicitly sneering on those who don't ("Oh, you are so meikal" and then crosses the road to avoid a chance meeting in the street). Moreover, the extra cash he pays for the "special" hechsher creates jobs for those who might be more usefully and gainfully employed elsewhere.

Applying the Torah according to the principles of socio-religious economics may lead to essentials being left out. Nearly all current chumot are in mitzvot bein adam lamkom (between Man and G-d), and hardly any are in daily human relations, such as decent manners and concern for others (bein adam le-chaveiro). Jerusalem's Meah Shearim and likeminded communities put up multi-lingual notices to keep out the scantily dressed, but not the sloppy, the uncouth, and the downright ill-mannered. Child abuse can be swept under the carpet as it undermines the status control of the socio-religious power-brokers - particularly if the guilty is one of them.

This then is the message of the final curse. 'Cursed is the one who will not uphold the words of this Torah to perform them". "This Torah", said Moses. In its entirety. G-d's Torah. Not your Torah. And certainly not your manipulating the Torah to promote your own agenda of enhancing your socio-religious status…

This D'var Torah on Parashat Ki Tavo is written in loving memory of my dearest Mother, Harabanit Devora Solomon ztl. who ascended to the Yeshiva Shel Ma'ala on Shabbat Ki Tavo sixteen years ago. May her memory be blessed, and be a source of blessings.

For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at and on the material on the Haftara at .

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers


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