Jonathan's Little Corner : Torah : Divrei Torah : Unveiling dvar torah

Psermon for the unveiling of Arthur Korpus
10 September 2000

This week's parasha is Ki-Tavo. It is a time of transition for Bnei Yisrael, as we draw close to the end of the wandering in the desert, and are prepared by God with some extra mitzvot that specifically apply to the entry into the land.

This parsha ends the recounting of the journey, preparing to enter into land. All that's left is blessings and warnings about the future. BY are on the threshhold of the next stage of their life. This is first day of the rest of your life, as my dad likes to say.

The parasha begins with the mitzva of bicurim. "When you come into the land" - now you are settling it. "An inheritance" - the new future, the new posterity. "Have taken possession of it" - and have conquered the Land as God has commanded. "Live in it" - make it yours. Once all this happens, you shall start bringing samples of the first fruits of your crops to the Temple, to offer them to God. When you go to offer them, you will make a little speech telling why you are bringing them:

Deuteronomy 26

1 "When you come into the land which the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance, and have taken possession of it, and live in it,...
5 "And you shall make response before the LORD your God, 'A wandering Aramean was my father; and he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous.
6 And the Egyptians treated us harshly, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage.
7 Then we cried to the LORD the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice, and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression;
8 and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror, with signs and wonders;
9 and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
10 And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which thou, O LORD, hast given me.'

Sound familiar? It's the core of Maggid, the exposition of the Exodus at the seder. Now, what is the culmination of the Exodus? We understand from the context of this passage, and it's reflected in Dayeinu, that the culmination of the Exodus is not entry into the Land, but conquest of the Land, its settlement, construction of the Temple: so that we can fulfill all the mitzvot in the Torah.

It says in Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 344:80 that one should go to the cemetery at the end of a year and say psalms and memorialize the deceased. Why? I speculate that it reflects the rabbinic-period method of interment: put the body in a burial cave, let it decompose, collect the bones and reinter permanently in an ossuary, a small box. The end of mourning, 12 months, coincides nicely with the antique end of decomposition.

All of these are not ends, but transitions: Bnei Yisrael are ending the long limbo of the wanderings, and transitioning to their new promised life in Israel. The wanderings prepared them for entry into the Land; so too does the mourning process prepare us to get on with our lives. Today (or strictly two weeks hence) does not indicate the end of our relationship with Arthur, but it does give us a convenient point to get on with the rest of our lives.

Arthur will always be big in our memories. Debbie says that her universe has a Daddy-sized hole in it. But the hole is not the Whole, and the rest of the universe of life comes back to the fore. The psalms we read here [last 8 verses of Ps. 69, Ps 101] remind us of Arthur's strength of character, his penchant for honesty, his strong loyalty to his children and his wife, which has been transmitted to his children. Yehi zichro baruch, may his memory be blessed.