The Promised Land
This week’s portion is titled Ki Tavo, which means “when you arrive to the land that G-d promised you.” Of course, when we hear this, our minds are drawn to Israel, but surprisingly Israel is not explicitly mentioned in the portion. Neither is Canaan, as Israel was known in Biblical times. That leaves us to interpret where exactly the promised land is, and Kabbalists believe that we can find it wherever we feel at home. How and when do we arrive to this sacred land, then? Interestingly, we can look to the names of Israel and Canaan for guidance. Israel, meaning leader, and Canaan, which comes from the word Ceniya — to surrender — combine to remind us that, in order to get to the land that G-d promised us, we must first surrender to the Divine and trust that we will be led there when the moment is right.
What does it mean to feel at home? We know instinctively that there is a difference between a house — which is just a building, after all — and a home. A home is felt in our hearts; it is a place of profound peace and deep belonging. It provides a sense of safety that goes far beyond the simple fact of shelter. It is where we are most free and comfortable to be ourselves, and so finding a home should be considered an important milestone on our spiritual journey. This portion reassures us that we will be drawn to the land that belongs to our soul, which in turn reminds us to stay conscious of the messages our souls may be sending us. We ignore these messages at our own risk!
Understandably, we feel impatient to arrive to the land that G-d promised us, our true home, whatever that may look like. However, it’s crucial to remember that G-d alone will decide when the right time is to reward us. Before we can reach this reward, there will surely be challenges to overcome, or tikkunim — things that need to be fixed. That’s why we should not feel dismayed when plans fall through, because we know that there is a higher plan for us that is greater than we can comprehend. If a move to a new city ends up cancelled, then, don’t be too disappointed. If you try to buy a house but the sale doesn’t work out, trust that there is a reason for this. The only way to find your true home is to surrender to the process and have faith in the Divine. When you arrive to the land that G-d promised you, you’ll know it.
For some people, this portion is a very tough one to read because alongside this enticing promise of sacred land, it also contains no less than 98 curses. This mixture of promises and curses is no accident. It is a reminder that all the amazing things promised to us by G-d are contingent on our following the spiritual path. Should we neglect our spirituality or ignore that higher form of knowing that we call the Divine, then terrible things await us. We should take this portion as both a motivation and a warning. There is every reason to commit ourselves to our spiritual growth if we want to enjoy a happier, more fulfilling, meaningful life. However, it remains our decision to make, ultimately, and so our responsibility to bear.
We should not be terrified into a kind of paralysis by these curses, because the Talmud and the Zohar tell us that within every curse lies its cure. Cures precede curses, so when we are going through difficult situations we can remind ourselves that there is a lesson and a solution to be found within the hardship that will ultimately heal us. Taking our very relevant current situation as an example, we can agree that there must be a cure for the coronavirus already on this earth. However, to find it we must intentionally open our eyes to the possibilities, in this case through scientific research and exploration. When it comes to curses in our day to day lives, we must also open our eyes — this time, on a spiritual level: we must remain open to the messages that the Divine is sending us, because it is only through this surrender that we will eventually be led home. To the land that G-d promised us.