Parshat Ki Tavo

Torah Reading for Week of August 26-September 1, 2018

“Remember the Rainbow”
By Rabbi Mindie Snyder, ’15

The views expressed in this drash are those of the author. We welcome Torah insights and teachings from all viewpoints, and encourage dialogue to strengthen the diversity of our academy.

Echoes of “remember” reverberate throughout Parshat Ki Tavo. Remember the widow.  Remember the orphan.  Remember the stranger.  Remember the Levite.  Remember The Holy One.  Remember the Mitzvot.  Remember the miracles.  Remember what happens when you arise and do good in the world.  Remember what happens when you stray from the good…Remember…Indeed, Moses seems to want us, the generations that have followed him, to remember many things.
 
Within his exhortations at the end of his life, it also seems that things were rather black and white, good and bad, positive or negative. As I re-read Parshat Ki Tavo, I observed a literary mechitza, a distinct separation between the blessings and the curses and I wondered why…What happens when we see the shades of gray in our lives? What happens when we are able to see the blessings within the curses?
 
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss and have found their way out of those depths.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
 
One of life’s great challenges is to confront obstacles as they present themselves. Seizing our courage, we can embrace the opportunity to refine our character. We can grasp onto a moment to stop what we are doing and give ourselves a spiritual pause of “station identification”.  Where are we, now?  Assessing our location, we begin to comprehend the value of these obstacles that appear to be relentless, these unbearable moments that move our soul to cry out “Dayenu!” “Enough!”.  Deeper exploration of our state reveals how the anatomy of calamity can be complex. Curses aren’t always of our own making, but sometimes they are.  How do we discern that which has befallen us from that which we created? How do we manage such shades of gray?
 
This summer, in Northern Arizona, we have experienced torrential downpours and hail storms during our monsoon season and our ability to see is suddenly obscured by the gray cast of fierce precipitation.  In the Amidah we have prayed “morid hatal”.  Perhaps we did not specify the type of water from heaven we desired?  How do we connect the dots between remembering what Moses wanted us to remember and clarity of vision and purpose for our lives?  How do we maintain our optimism in the face of a flash flood of unwanted circumstances?
 
I see the world slowly being transformed into a wilderness;
I hear the approaching thunder that one day will destroy us, too.
I feel the suffering of millions.
And yet, when I look up at the sky,
I somehow feel that everything will change for the better,
that this cruelty, too, shall end,
that peace and tranquility will return once more.
Anne Frank
 
A few weeks ago, I was driving home from synagogue when I saw a rainbow emerging from the clouds, like a stairway to heaven.  It followed me home, alternating its position between right, left and center, ultimately landing upon the roof of my house. Over centuries, rabbis have discussed the past (va-y’hi) and future tense (v’hayah) of the verb “to be” in this parsha. They have noted that the future tense portends joy.  Chaverimremember there can be blessings among the curses, such as the appearance of a rainbow that accompanies a storm.
                          
The text from Ki Tavo’s companion Haftarah can inspire us, now, as we refine our souls in preparation to stand before the Holy One during the High Holy Days:   
 
ק֥וּמִי אֹ֖ורִי כִּ֣י בָ֣א אֹורֵ֑ךְ וּכְבֹ֥וד יְהוָ֖ה עָלַ֥יִךְ זָרָֽח      
Arise, shine; for your light has come and the glory of Adonai has risen upon you.

Isaiah 60:1