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Story: Parshat Ki Tavo, 9/4/20

09/22/2020 09:37:16 AM


Rabbi Charlie

This week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo, is filled with lists of blessings and curses. Blessings if we live as God wants us to live. If not… curses – lots of curses. It reminds us that we do have some control over our lives. The choices we make do have an impact. That relates to our actions and it also relates to how we choose to see things.

Life is always filled with ups and downs and the time that we’re living in has more challenges than usual. It’s far too easy to focus on the negative. I guess that’s why this story is really speaking to me right now:

We begin with Esther. Esther and her family are very poor. Rosh Hashanah is coming and their grand celebratory feast will be quite meager, once again. Esther has always been one to focus on what they have and not what they don’t have and without much food to prepare, she’s grateful that she has a little time for the laundry. She heads down to the river. She can’t fix all their problems, but with God’s help she can make sure the family will have clean clothes so they can look their best for the New Year.

As she’s doing the wash, an old man walks up to her. After exchanging warm greetings, he asks her, “Do you and your family have everything you need for Rosh Hashanah?”

Esther replies, “Oh, that’s so kind of you to ask. With God’s help, we’ll have all that we need.”

Now this old man wasn’t any old man. He was Elijah the Prophet and he heard exactly what Esther was saying. He pulled a bag of coins from one of his many pockets and gave it to her. Esther tries to protest, but he insists. She thanks him for his kindness and when she returns home, she’s shocked to find new clothes for every member of the family and a beautiful sheep. Thanks to Elijah, they will have a very good new year.

That night, when Esther explains to her family their good fortune and the mysterious man and all that has happened, her envious rich neighbor happened to be walking by. The next day, she goes down to the river and just as she hoped, an old man walked by. She can’t wait to tell him about her struggles. She complains about how nothing is clean and they don’t have food or money. She complains and complains. And when she returns home, she finds that everything she complained about is gone.

Elijah made their perception – what they said about themselves – into reality.

Life can be hard - so when we are able to find the blessings and appreciate the good, it tends to make things less difficult. And life can be good – not perfect, but good. When we ignore the blessings and only see the flaws, it tends to cast all the positive in a negative light.

There’s a lot that’s outside of our control right now. At the same time, our actions have an impact. When it comes to living a life of mitzvot or caring for others, we have a choice. And we also have a choice about whether to focus on the blessings or the curses. How we see things matters – certainly in our own lives. And a little bit of gratitude and appreciation can go a long way.


Mon, January 25 2021 12 Sh'vat 5781