Thursday, September 14, 2017

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Jake Rosner on Ki Tavo

Shabbat Shalom!
Those of you who know me know that I have a real interest in history and geography.  I love to learn about different cultures and countries all over the world.
So it was a nice coincidence that my portion begins with a history and geography lesson.
Back in ancient Israel, farmers would bring their first fruits to the temple in Jerusalem and when they presented them, they would recite a formula that begins with the words: “My father was a wandering Aramean…”
This verse takes the history of the Israelites from their roots in what is now Iraq and describes their adventures in Egypt as slaves; leading up to the Exodus, their wanderings in the wilderness of Sinai and eventually to their final destination – the land of Israel.
The early history of the Jewish people was one of wandering and persecution – and a key lesson of that history is to appreciate having found a home, and to be sympathetic to the needs of strangers – or others who are persecuted.
The geography part is to appreciate the chance to cultivate a land rich in produce with ample water.  The whole reason they went to Egypt in the first place was because of a famine, something not uncommon in that part of the world.
These historical and geographical lessons teach us, then, to be sensitive to those who are suffering, as well as to appreciate the bounty of a good harvest with enough water to survive.  That’s why the farmers made that presentation when bringing their first fruits.
You can learn a lot about a nation from its particular history and geography. 
For example, I’ve always been interested in North Korea.  From their geography, we learn that they also have lots of famines.  So no food, no water, and the people are totally isolated.   Add to that, they have little education (except for those in the capital city), no money and no hope.  You can’t cross into South Korea – the DMZ is arguably the most militarized border on earth.  And China controls their northern frontier and if anyone tries to escape their, they end up in prison camps.
Or take Germany and Japan.  They are two of the most powerful military forces in the world.  But their history has taught them important lessons about what can happen when you go too far.  So they are very reluctant to use force.
Poland is weak and for centuries it has been like a ping pong ball being squeezed by Germany and Russia.  That history has shaped them as a nation.
And take the nation of Malawi, in Africa.  My mitzvah project involves assisting the people of that country with medical supplies.  You can make a donation at
Why did I choose Malawi?  Well, for one thing, it’s one of the poorest countries on earth, so the need is very great.  But it is also easy to send supplies there, because there is no major conflict going on currently in the area.  It’s located in southeast Africa, with Zambia on the west, Mozambique on the east and south and Tanzania on the north.  These are all pretty peace-loving countries.   The people are known as the “heart of Africa,” both in that that they are close to the middle of the continent and because they are kindhearted.  Their flag has a sunset – they have beautiful sunsets.  The people there, from what I’ve heard, are kind and warm.  That’s why I chose to help the people of Malawi.

So you can see how we can learn about a nation from its history and geography.  As I become a bar mitzvah, I hope to use my interest in these subjects to help make the world a better place.

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