The name of this week’s parsha, or Torah portion, is Ki Tavo, which means “when you enter.” In this parsha, Moses lays out for the Jewish people the rituals they should observe when they enter the Promised Land. The various rituals all have a common theme: honoring the history of the Jewish people, and all that G-d has done for them. For instance, they must, upon entering Israel, bring “the fruit of the land” to the Temple and offer a prayer of thanksgiving. In their third year of living in the Promised Land, they must gather all the tithes of their harvest and give them to “the Levite, the stranger, the orphan, and the widow,” and then say a prayer relaying they have done this in G-d’s name.
But one ritual in particular, which is described at length throughout the parsha, entails members of certain tribes recounting to the people as a whole the blessings that will come from following the commandments of G-d – and the curses that will result from ignoring them. Obey the words of the Torah and you will be blessed with bountiful crops and fruitful marriages; you will be protected from your enemies; you will never want for money or comfort. Turn away from these teachings and your crops will dry up; you will be assaulted by illness and plague; your enemies will ruin you; you will be destitute.
As I read these lengthy, detailed lists, I found myself thinking of them as a sort of incentive program for doing what is morally right – and how such an incentive program might relate to my own meditation practice. I thought about how when I’m dedicated to my practice – when I practice consistently, even for just a few minutes a day – I start to find peace and space in my mind; increased comfort with myself and with others; a calmness that otherwise eludes me. And when my practice starts to slip, my thoughts become more obsessive; I have trouble letting little things go; I’m more irritable; I’m less pleasant, to others and myself. Just as doing what is morally right brings its own blessings simply by making us better people, a meditation practice can become its own reward by bringing us the peace we so desperately seek within ourselves.
I also thought about how being true to ourselves – to the words of our own inner Torahs – can also bring us all the blessings G-d promised. And how meditation is such a helpful tool not just for being true to ourselves, but in helping us discover who we are in the first place.
So my kavanah, or intention, is that in those times when meditation is a struggle for us, we can remember the incentive program that is a consistent practice – and that when we’re able to practice consistently, that our meditation brings us the blessings of inner peace and self-discovery.