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Ki Tavo: Zachreinu L’Chaim

There are 11 curses listed in this week’s portion. The 11 sins listed here correspond to 11 virtues mentioned by King David in Psalms 15 as determining who is entitled to sojourn and in God’s tent, the Temple. Anyone residing outside the Land of Israel is obligated to practice these virtues; they are the very opposite of the sins listed in our chapter here.


When David demands that the person, “live without blame,” this parallels the Torah’s demand in Deuteronomy 18:13, “You shall be wholehearted with God, your Lord.” David’s demand to, “Do what is right,” means he must not rob or steal anything belonging to his fellow. Our sages (Bava Batra 88) phrased it as, “righteousness should emanate from you, you should give a little extra to your customer rather than a little less than called for by the scales.” This is the opposite of adjusting boundaries in one’s favor.

The next stipulation of David, “Speaking the truth in one’s heart,” means that one’s heart and one’s mouth, one’s pronouncements, should be in harmony with one another. This is the reverse of steering the blind person the wrong way, pretending to be helpful to him.

The words, “His tongue is not given to evil,” is the opposite of, “striking his fellow in secret (Verse 25).” This is a form of slander.

The words, “He has not committed any harm to his fellow,” is the reverse of perverting justice, listed in our chapter in verse 20.

The words, “He has not brought shame on his relative,” meaning that he has not perpetrated deeds which result in his relative becoming guilty of a sin, the reverse of the sexual acts described in our chapter.

The words, “a contemptible man is abhorrent in his eyes,” mentioned by David (verse 4) as a qualification required to entitle one to be at home in the Temple, is the opposite of the sin of belittling one’s father and mother. The cause of such belittling is that one feels haughty and superior. Honoring those who are God-fearing, another prerequisite listed by David as part of the entrance fee to the Lord’s Sanctuary, is the reverse of belittling one’s parents.

“Not having lent money to a fellow Jew and charging interest on it nor accepting a bribe against the innocent (verse 5),” is in stark contrast to the sin of spilling blood. People who take David’s  moral ethical demands to heart  will be sure to not become shaky in their faith and fair conduct, effort (Rabbeinu Bachya).

Rav Yehudah HaChassid teaches that the 11 Hebrew words in the prayer, “Remember us for life, Oh Ingrid Who desires life, and inscribe us in the Book of Life, for Your sake, oh Living God,” correspond to the 11 qualities listed in Psalm 15. By paying attention to the 11 sins described in this chapter, and determining how we can we repair those sins with the 11 instructions in Psalm 15, we are empowering ourselves to recite this phrase throughout the Days of Awe.

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