Ki Tavo 5776

September 22, 2016

Ki Tavo – Vampire Logic  by Rabbi Mashiach Kelaty

We’ve all heard of vampires. Those mythical creatures that prey on hapless humans and drink their blood. The evil incarnate Dracula with his fangs at the ready. A whole enterprise was created because of these humanoid leeches. One legend about vampires is that they cannot exist in the light [this is probably based on the life of a bat, who only comes out at night]. Vampires have to resign themselves to pottering around in graveyards and sleeping in coffins.  But woe is to the one who is caught out in daylight. He will wither and die [at the very least, it’s not good for his complexion].

The verse in this week’s parasha tells us “These shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people..and these shall on Mount Eval for the curse” (27:12,13). Six tribes were on one mountain, and six on the other. Rashi brings the Gemara in Sotah 37b which tells us that besides the 12 tribes split between these two mountains, the Cohanim and the Leviim were in the valley between them. They were to utter the curses and the blessings, and the tribes would answer Amen. But why mention the valley between the two mountains?

There is an important lesson to be learnt from here. Just like there is a definitive area between the mountains of blessings and curses, so there is a definite demarcation between good and evil. There are no grey areas. You can’t say ‘this is mostly a mitzvah’ or ‘this is mostly an aveirah’. Either it is 100% mitzvah or 100% aveirah. Whereas a vampire cannot exist in daylight, he thrives in the dark. But there is no twilight for them. It’s either/or.

The danger begins when the boundaries are blurred. And that is where the human being comes in. Humans are very complex creatures. It’s never black or white with us. Nothing is straightforward when it comes to mankind. But that’s not the reality. The reality is that, like the vampires, evil can only exist in the dark. Light will vanquish dark, and kedusha will vanquish tumah. The two can never, and will never, co-exist. Which is the reason why, when a person does a mitzvah, at that moment he is a tzaddik. Nothing else in the world matters at that moment. His integrity cannot be impugned. He is a full blown, no holds barred, dyed in the wool tzaddik.

Isn’t that in and of itself a tremendous and inspiring thought? Do a mitzvah – be a tzaddik! Keep doing mitzvot – keep being a tzaddik! What greater incentive does one need for teshuva! Bear this in mind during this virtuous month of Elul. Seize the opportunity for a mitzvah. And make sure to do it with enthusiasm…

The story is told about John the Russian soldier, who was enlisted by his unit to guard the weapons overnight. He did this with tremendous devotion to duty, in the perishing cold, until, during the middle of the night, he literally froze, and fell to the ground with acute hypothermia. His comrades discovered him, and managed to defrost him (probably with hot towels and plenty of cognac).

You would think that this man would receive a hero’s welcome. But he was in fact arrested for dereliction of duty, and made to stand trial in front of a military court.

John felt, at the very least, peeved and unappreciated. During his defence, he claimed that he had literally put his life on the line guarding the weapons cache, until he could stand no more. What else was expected of him?

Despite this impassioned plea, he was pronounced guilty. The military council stated that if he had thought about the Czar and mother Russia, the heat would have literally made him sweat.

His crime? He didn’t feel the heat!

It’s not good enough for us to go through the motions and ‘keep what our parents kept’, in a soulless fashion, without any thought about what we are doing…We have to make ourselves sweat when we serve Him! Know your Maker, and know Him well. Feel the fire of Torah within your bones. Don’t be caught sleeping on duty!

May we all feel the heat, and serve Hashem with a burning passion.

Tizku lshanim rabbot, tovot une’imot.

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