When you have entered the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it . . . — Deuteronomy 26:1
The Torah portion for this week is Ki Tavo, which means “when you have entered,” from Deuteronomy 26:1–29:8, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 60:1–22.
In Israel, there is a culture of hitchhiking. To outsiders, this culture seems a bit strange, even dangerous. Men and women of all ages will regularly take rides from complete strangers, and complete strangers will often pull up to bus stops and offer rides. Yet, when you become accustomed to the practice, you see it as a culture of kindness.
Whenever I give someone a ride, I always hear the words of a rabbi who once taught me and said, “When you do someone a favor, do it all the way!” In other words, don’t stop just short of completing it. Don’t let someone off at the corner when you can drive them all the way home.
This week’s Torah reading, Ki Tavo, meaning “When you have entered” begins, “When you have entered the land the LORD your God is giving you . . .” The Jewish sages ask, when does the act of “entering” occur? Can we say that a nation has entered a land when the first person arrives? When most of the inhabitants have moved in? Or does the entire nation have to be in the land before we can say that they have truly entered it?
The sages answer it this way: “Partial entry is not considered entry.” The sages explain that when Scripture says, “When you have entered the land . . .” it refers to a time when the entire nation has entered the land, conquered it, and divided it up. Only when the children of Israel had fully occupied the land would it be considered that they had arrived.
The sages teach that this idea contains some good advice for us today: We need to “enter” fully and wholeheartedly into everything that we do in our lives.
So many people do things half-heartedly. Their attention is half with their children, half somewhere else. They are half in a conversation, and half checking email. When at work, they are half on vacation, and while taking a vacation, they are still half at work. Investing yourself wholeheartedly, instead of half-way, isn’t just about making a quantitative difference; it’s about making a qualitative one.
Whether you are giving someone a ride or just speaking with another human being, try being completely present. Enter fully into all you do. If it’s true that you get what you give in life, you may as well give it your all!
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President