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Gematria Shorts for Ki Tavo

Parashat Ki Tavo is the 50th parashah in the Torah and there are exactly 50 letters in the parashah’s first verse (וְהָיָה כִּי תָבוֹא אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר י־הוה אֱ־לֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ נַחֲלָה וִירִשְׁתָּהּ וְיָשַׁבְתָּ בָּהּ) alluding to the 50 Gates of Understanding. The inner experience associated with understanding is joy. Indeed, the sages tell us that the parashah’s first word, “It will be” (וְהָיָה) is indicative of joy (Tanchuma Shemini 9). The joy of this parashah is what sweetens the difficulty of the curses and afflictions described in it, as it is known that “harsh judgments can only be sweetened in their source—in understanding.”

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Apart from Ki Tavo, there is another parashah that contains a threat of afflictions and curses, Parashat Bechukotai. Bechukotai is the Torah’s 33rd parashah and its first verse has exactly 33 letters (אִם בְּחֻקֹּתַי תֵּלֵכוּ וְאֶת מִצְוֺתַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם).

 

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The first fruit we are commanded to bring is to be placed in a basket called a tene (טֶנֶא). This word stands for two acronyms that are related to one another: tene (טֶנֶא) can stand for “cantillation marks, vowel signs, letters” (טְעָמִים נְקֻדּוֹת אוֹתִיּוֹת) and it can stand for “children, women, men” (טַף נָשִׁים אֲנָשִׁים).

The Torah’s cantillation marks are used to sing its verses, but in Hebrew, their name also means “taste.” The word for vowel signs also means “points.” There is an important teaching here. Each of the three groups—children, women, and men—is predominantly sensitive to a different dimension of the Torah. Most men (אֲנָשִׁים) are comfortable hearing letters (אוֹתִיּוֹת), i.e., lengthy explanations that delve into the depth of the Torah’s teachings. Most women would prefer to listen to “points” of Torah, practical and useful insights that can be applied (what does it all boil down to?). And children are most sensitive to the “taste” of Torah, to the overall atmosphere that surrounds those who engage in Torah study and homes that are filled with the scent of Torah.

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