Friday, September 16, 2011

Parshat Ki Tavo - Who Knows Eleven

The weeks Parsha, Ki Tavo includes the ceremony of Blessing and Curses that took place on Har Eival and Har Grazim. Six tribes went up Har Grizim (the Mountain of blessings), the other six went up Har Eival (the Mountain of curses) and parts of the tribe of levy stood in the middle reciting blessings in one direction and curses in the other and after each blessing or curse the nation replied Amen (one of the few uses of the word “Amen” in the Torah)

The list of curses seems to be a strange collection of prohibitions, not to create an idol, not to move a property marker, not to curse your parents, various sexual sins,

Many Rishonim point out that the connection between these prohibitions is that they are all done in private, hidden (בסתר).

Kli Yakar points out that the language of the blessings is active but the curses are written in the passive voice:

11. And Moses commanded the people on that day, saying,  

יא. וַיְצַו מֹשֶׁה אֶת הָעָם בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר:

12. When you cross the Jordan, the following shall stand upon Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin.  

יב. אֵלֶּה יַעַמְדוּ לְבָרֵךְ אֶת הָעָם עַל הַר גְּרִזִים בְּעָבְרְכֶם אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן שִׁמְעוֹן וְלֵוִי וִיהוּדָה וְיִשָּׂשכָר וְיוֹסֵף וּבִנְיָמִן:

13. And the following shall stand upon Mount Ebal for the curse: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naftali.  

יג. וְאֵלֶּה יַעַמְדוּ עַל הַקְּלָלָה בְּהַר עֵיבָל רְאוּבֵן גָּד וְאָשֵׁר וּזְבוּלֻן דָּן וְנַפְתָּלִי:

Kli Yakar says that this passiveness gives the impression that G-d isn’t there; that these curses happen by themselves. When we commit sins in private, HaShem hides himself, a state known has הסתר פנים it is this hiddenness of G-d’s Presence that gives the appearance of curses or evil in the world.

The Kli Yakar also notes that there are 11 curses (other meforshim count 12, but the Kli Yakar doesn’t count the last general statement).

Eleven is an unusual number in Judaism. Twelve we know represents the complete nation, the 12 tribes.

Thirteen can represent the Attributes of G-d or the 12 tribes with the addition of Levy. This is actually 2 manifestations of the same idea; when we add Levy to the nation, Levy who “escorted” (מלווה) the mishkan or the Divine Presence (physically in the Dessert, or spiritually in later generations when Levy served as teachers), we bring G-d’s Attributes into the nation; we become as one with G-d.

If Thirteen equals the 12 tribes plus the Divine Presence, it makes sense that Eleven is the Twelve tribes, without the Divine Presence. When we commit sins in secret, we are in fact banishing the Divine spark that exists amongst us.

11 are also the stars in Joseph’s dream. It was this dream that lead to the hatred of the brothers against Joseph, which lead to the attempt to kill Joseph and our eventual descent into exile.

I.e., Eleven is not only the exclusion of the Divine Spark through sins in private, it also leads to Sinat Chinam and Exile.

As Rosh Hashana approaches, may we all manage to perfect our actions so that we act the same in private as we do in public, and thus restore the Divine Presence amongst us and bring an end to this Sinat Chinam and bring the Redemption.

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