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    When do you arrive? – Ki Tavo

    welcomeMany years ago I accepted a position in Australia and resigned from my then congregation at Hampstead in north-west London.

    Someone expressed surprise that I was going, and said, “Hampstead is a place of arrival, not departure!”

    He meant that when a rabbi got a job at Hampstead he had arrived and generally stayed for ever or at least for a lengthy period.

    It’s true: Hampstead really was a place of arrival. (When I went there someone else commented in the Jewish Chronicle, “an apple has got a plum job”.)

    These thoughts are relevant to today’s sidra, which says, “When you come to the Land…” (Deut. 26:1-2) – i.e. “When you have arrived…”

    How do you know you have really arrived in Israel?

    The first year you complain about the Aliyah officials in your country of origin who misled you, the next year you complain about the Ministry of Absorption officials who advised you badly, the next year you complain about the Treasury, which didn’t give you enough perks…

    Eventually you complain about a later wave of immigrants, who got a better deal that you did, and when this is where you find yourself, it means you’ve arrived.

    Arrival means that you feel at home. The place is yours, the people are yours, the way of life is yours. You’ve arrived!

    The Torah knows all of this, but it adds a further stage. When have you arrived? When you speak about it (“I have come to the Land which God promised!”) and you willingly accept your share of social responsibility (you offer your first fruits to the Land and its destiny).

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