5 Minute Torah – Ki Tavo

5 Minute Torah

Ki Tavo (“When You Enter”)
Deuteronomy 26:1 – 29:8

“Accursed is one who will not uphold the words of this Torah, to perform them.” (Deuteronomy 27:26)

Right Thinking vs. Right Actions

The above passage sounds harsh, doesn’t it? The reality, however, is that this is a covenant — an agreement. And the agreement states that there will be blessings if we abide by the terms and curses if we do not abide by the terms. Contrary to most theological systems, it’s not about “knowing” the right things, but “doing” the right things. Interestingly, Ramban1 points out a view found in the Jerusalem Talmud (Sotah 7:4) that if a person influences others to be obedient to the commandments, while he, himself, is not willing to do so — he is cursed.

James, the brother of the Master, writes in a typical manner of Hebrew (Biblical) thought. He makes this bold statement: “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone,” (James 2:24).

The Rabbis confirm this with the anecdote, “The essential thing is not study, but deed.” Avot 1:17

You don’t hear the prophets, or Yeshua or any of the Apostles castigating people for their bad theology, but for their improper actions. James clarifies this by stating, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins,” (James 4:17). The old cliche is actually true that “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” We can have all of the “right” theology and the proper creeds in the world, but without the “deeds” behind them, they are empty air. Paul tells us that although he may understand all mysteries, without love (compassion/conviction in action) he is nothing (1 Corinthians 13). We must have the same thinking.

Lastly, our parashah also tells us, “Accursed is one who causes a blind person to go astray on the road,” (Deuteronomy 27:18). Although we can still literally apply this today, we can also apply the greater principle. If there is someone trusting us in a matter (our children, friends who do not know the Scriptures as well, clients who to not understand the “legalese” of the transaction, etc.) we are obligated to make sure they don’t “fall off the path” through a misunderstanding, an uninformed choice, or a bad example (on our part).

To tie the two concepts together, James (yes, James again!) gives us a definition by which we should live, He tells us “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world,” (James 1:27).

Shabbat Shalom!


1 RaMBaN is an acronym for a popular Jewish scholar of the Middle Ages by the name of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman.

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