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    The second Tochechah – Ki tavo

    We have already had an extensive Tochechah, a catalogue of woes and warnings, at the end of the Book of Vayyikra. Why do we need another one this Shabbat in Parashat Ki Tavo?

    One approach is to say that it is part of Moses’ farewell summing-up of his life’s teaching. If he can remind the people of the Ten Commandments, why can he not also remind them not to disobey the Divine word?

    An Anglo-Jewish preacher said that one Tochechah usually comes when people are on vacation, so most shule-goers actually only have one Tochechah per year, and no-one can object to that.

    The Midrash, however, has a less cynical approach. It quotes the verse, Rabbot ra’ot tzaddik, u’mikkullam yatzilennu HaShem – “Many are the ills of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34:20).

    The Torah does not promise anyone, even the tzaddik, immunity from suffering, but it assures us that the good person will be saved from his suffering – not always directly and literally but in time and often in the spiritual sense that is summed up by Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev in the words, “Lord, I do not ask why I am suffering; I only want to know that I am suffering for Your sake”.

    Those who like g’matria point out that ra’ot (“ills”) has the numerical value of 676; in the Tochechah the Divine name, the letters of which add up to 26, comes 26 times – and 26 multiplied by 26 is 676.

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