Ki Tavo

By Rabbi Daniel Glass, September 16, 2008

"And all these blessings will come upon you and overtake you" Deuteronomy 28:2

This world does not seem to be a place where the good are rewarded and the bad receive their "just desserts".

In fact, our tradition tells us that the spiritual practices (mitzvot) that lie at the centre of Judaism can essentially be rewarded only in the world to come. Intriguingly, this seems to be because the world we live in, notwithstanding its wonderful richness of experience and opportunity, simply doesn't possess a "currency" refined enough to relate to the value of a mitzvah. To reward a person in this world would be like a parent expressing love for a child only through the medium of sweets and toys.

How, then, can it be that this week's sidrah - and many other passages in the Torah - seems to promise this-worldly wealth, health and success as a direct corollary of spiritual and ethical goodness?

The physician and philosopher, Rambam (Maimonides), has a fascinating approach.

Instead of reward, the mechanism described here is that spiritual and ethical goodness is none other than the usage of one's gifts - intellect, or health, or wit, or speech, or artistic ability or any other gift - in the most productive way possible. When the Creator - and allocator - of these gifts can "see" them being used with sensitivity and effectiveness, then there is every reason not merely to maintain these gifts but to bestow more.

In a sense, this can be compared to an employer entrusting an employee with more resources, personnel etc because of their historical track record. This is not reward - that may come in terms of salary and bonus at a quite different time - but simply the consequence of trust.

As we approach Rosh Hashanah, the time of year when our health, wealth and resources are decided, Ki Tavo reveals a key concept as to how these decisions are made.

Last updated: 10:29am, September 16 2008