משה אברמן
Rav Moshe Aberman
Former Rosh Kollel in Chicago

 

Parashat Ki Tavo is always read preceeding Rosh Hashana even though on the Shabat immediately before Rosh Hashana we read Parashat Nitzavim. The Gemara (Megila 31b) explains that the purpose of reading Ki Tavo before the end of the year is so that we read the punishments (curses) before the end of the year. This is meant to express the hope that “teitze shana vekileloteiha”, all the curses of the year should be completed and not carried over to the next year.  

There may be another purpose in reading Parashat Ki Tavo prior to Rosh Hashana. We read in the Parasha “Yekimcha Hashem lo le’am kadosh kaasher nishba lach ki tishmor mitzvot hashem elokecha vehalachta bidrachav” (Devarim 28/9). God will establish you as his holy nation as he has sworn to you, should you observe his commandments and follow in his footsteps. The Rambam in his Sefer Hamitzvot (positive mitzvah 8) writes that this pasuk teaches us: “We are commanded to emulate him (God) as best we can.”  

The Sefer Hachinuch elaborates on this theme stating “We are commanded to do our deeds with righteousness and good as best we can. To tend in matters pertaining to issues between each other in the path of benevolence and mercy. As we know from his Torah that it is the way of God and his desire of his creations so that they merit his good since he (god) desires benevolence” (mitzvah 611).   

Later under the heading of “The Details of this Mitzvah” the Sefer Hachinuch adds: “their essence is that in general man must choose in all his matters and all his deeds whether eating or drinking, whether in commerce, Torah study, prayer, conversations and in all matters the good and balanced path and he should never be disposed to the extremes. And, to this matter he must always set his attention, namely that he set his mind to act in the manner balance and righteousness.”

This idea of taking the median path of moderation was developed by the Rambam in Hilchot Deiot (chapter 1). The Rambam opens by stating that different people tend to different personal traits. Some will tend to constant anger while others are always calm. There are those who are haughty while others are overly modest. Some live with great temptations while others are pure and not tempted by anything. Some are never financially satisfied while others can suffice with minimal income. The Rambam elaborates and goes through several other traits and then notes that in between the two extremes there are people, in each category, with moderate traits. He also notes (halacha 2) that there are traits which are natural traits and others that are acquired traits.  Acquired traits can be learned by observing the behavior of others or through education and self-introspection.

In the next two halachot the Rambam proceeds to teach us that the extremes in any direction are not ideal and that one should aspire to acclimate himself to moderation. Yet, notes the Rambam, though the precise moderation is a sign of a Chacham, a scholar, one who deviates slightly to one end is called a Chasid (not the modern day use of the term but as used by Chazal to indicate a person inclined to chesed – benevolence).

The Chasid represents the ideal of human behavior not taking extreme and problematic positions yet not being rigid to the letter of the law. The Chasid represents the ideal of “lifnim mishurat hadin” going with charity beyond the letter of the law. It is this trait of “lifnim mishurat hadin” that we are meant to emulate in Gods ways fulfilling the mitzvah of “vehalachta bidrachav”.

Reading and learning the mitzvah of emulating Hakadosh Baruch Hu is a key to living in a way that brings us close to Him, namely Teshuva. It may be that reading Parashat Ki Tavo in the days that lead up to Rosh Hashana is meant to awaken this track of Teshuva before the Day of Judgment – Rosh Hashana.