Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1 – 29:8)

Gee, time flies.  We’re already up to the sixth Haftarah of Consolation, Isaiah 60:1-22, which tells of a time of joy, everlasting light, and salvation. It’s time for Selichot already, this Saturday night.  Selichot, a series of penitential prayers and liturgy, ramps up the emotional intensity of the penitential season that began with the weekday sounding of the shofar this month (Elul).  See , e.g.,

The next several weeks include increasing self examination and asking for forgiveness.

 The Israelites are nearing the end of their journey as we near the end of the year by the Hebrew calendar.  This week’s portion begins with commands  concerning the first fruits offering the and tithing on a three year cycle, to support the Levites, resident aliens, widows, and orphans. They are not only told exactly what to do, but exactly what to say (26:3, 5-10, 13-15) –  they, not the priests nor other leaders, and the words carry the reasons for the actions.  Moses and the elders now tell the people not only to observe all the Law, but to write it all on huge, plastered stones (Biblical billboards), with an altar of unhewn stones nearby for sacrifices.  Most of the rest of Ki Tavo consists of the Tochachah, “warning” (this is the major one – the minor one was back in Leviticus).  Half the tribes are to stand on Mount Gerizim, half on Mount Ebal, with the Levites in the valley between, facing Gerizim to pronounce blessings and Ebal for the curses (as described by Rashi).  The people answer “Amen” to each curse. The first set of curses (27:15-26) indicates specific reasons for curses (for example, making an idol, dishonoring one’s parents, indulging in a forbidden sexual relationship) but not what the actual curse will be. The blessings that follow (28:1-14) are based on one omnibus command: If they diligently obey all the laws, many specific blessings will ensue, like fertility (land, animals, and people), rain, wealth, being invulnerable to their enemies, and subservient to no nation.  That’s all familiar stuff and rather obvious, as is the idea of being punished for disobedience.  What’s horrifying is the specificity in the curses that follow (28:15-68), a devastating litany of destruction, loss, unthinkable behavior, loss of control, confusion, mental anguish, despair, and utter, utter hopelessness. 

 Moses steps back and seems to begin a familiar exhortation about the divine miracles the Israelites have seen from Egypt onward and how well the Lord has taken care of their physical needs.  Then, in 29:3, “but the Lord hath not given you a heart to know, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, until this day.” Only now are the people fully aware. And only now are they ready to conquer the Promised Land.

Shabbat shalom,



What Does ‘Amen’ Mean?

When my brother said, “Amen” after grace one night, one of his children asked what “Amen” meant.

Before he or his wife could answer, their five-year-old responded, “It means, ‘Send.’”


What Does ‘Amen’ Mean? (II)

During a children’s sermon, Rev. Larry Eisenberg asked the children  what “Amen” means.  A little boy raised his hand and said: “It means ‘Tha-tha-tha-that’s all folks!’ ”


Signs by the Linguistically Challenged

It’s a good deal, but . . . oh, the college costs!
(Taken by Rob Strain near Omaha, Nebraska.)

 So, how do you get there from here?


I think I’ll keep driving!
(In Independence, Missouri.)


How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb?

Q: How many lawyers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A1: How many can you afford?

A3: It only takes one lawyer to change your light bulb to his light bulb.

A4: Three. One to do it and two to sue him for malpractice.

A6: Fifty four. Eight to argue, one to get a continuance, one to object one to demur, two to research precedents, one to dictate a letter, one to stipulate, five to turn in their time cards, one to depose, one to write interrogatories, two to settle, one to order a secretary to change the bulb, and twenty-eight to bill for professional services.

A7: 65. 42 to sue the power company for insufficiently supplying power, or negligent failure to prevent the surge that made the bulb burn out in the first place, 14 to sue the electrician who wired the house, and 9 to sue the bulb manufacturers.

A8: You won’t find a lawyer who can change a light bulb. Now, if you’re looking for a lawyer to screw a light bulb…

Q: How many personal injury attorneys does it take to change a light bulb?

A: Three: one to turn the bulb, one to shake him off the ladder, and the third to sue the ladder company.


As I read this portion, I had a vision of Democrats on Mount Gerizim, Republicans on Mount Ebal, and independents in the valley between, with the independents cursing both the liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans, forcing each group to say “Amen!” to each curse. 

I came across a site recently, , that has generated a lot of heat (some people take these things way too seriously) with “curses” aimed at Jewish conservative Republicans.  Some samples:

  • May your synagogue board institute the filibuster.
  • May your accountant be as honest as Paul Ryan, and may your children be as compassionate towards the elderly and infirm.
  • May you sell everything and retire to Florida just as global warming makes it uninhabitable.
  • May you have a hundred houses, and in every house a hundred rooms, and in every room twenty beds, and then may you fall behind on just one of your mortgage payments and have the bank repossess everything.
  • May you be reunited in the world to come with your ancestors, who were all socialist garment workers.
  • May you live to a hundred and twenty without Social Security or Medicare.
  • May you grow like an onion with your head in the ground, and then may the ground be fracked.

 So, for equal opportunity ribbing, I tried to come up with some curses aimed at liberal Democrats:

  • May your spouse and children become Tea Party activists.
  • May there be so many patients paid for by the Affordable Care Act that it takes you 2 years to schedule your annual physical.
  • May lattes be declared a health hazard.
  • May your “triply washed” arugula and radicchio remain full of bugs
  • May you discover ancestors who fought for the Confederacy*.
  • May your blog be quoted – favorably – by Rush Limbaugh.

*Obviously, that one is for northerners.  By the way, I did learn some years ago of a distant cousin who fought for the Confederacy.  My uncle, a WWII war hero, a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne, was mortified.

I’d appreciate your contributions.  IGP


 In this excerpt from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsby Ann Brashares,  Carmen is a teen with divorced parents who lives with her Puerto Rican mother and visits her father in South Carolina, only to find he is engaged.  Thinking she is being replaced by a perfect, blond family, she loses her temper. Here, she tries (sort of) to apologize for a fit of temper:

Please accept this money to fix the broken window. I’m sure it’s already fixed, considering Lydia’s house pride and her phobia about unconditioned air, but

Dear Al,
I can’t begin to explain my actions at Lydia’s – I mean yours and Lydia’s house. When I got to Charleston, I never imagined that you would have

Dear Dad and Lydia,
I apologize to both of you for my irrational behavior. I know it’s all my fault, but if you would have listened to ONE THING I had to say, I might not have

Dear Dad’s new family,
I hope you’ll all be very happy being blond together. May people speak only in inside voices for the rest of your lives.
P.S. Lydia, you wedding dress makes your arms look fat.”

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