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    Heaven & earth – Ki Tavo

    The law of the first-fruit ritual begins with the words, “When you come into the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance” (Deut. 26:1).

    This apparently mundane sentence hints at one of the principles of the Jewish belief system. There is a Jewish hope of life after death, but the more important “land of the living” (Psalm 116:9) is here on earth – “the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance”. Life on earth is where one must strive and win victories for God.

    In the 19th century when there was so much infant mortality people got comfort out of a little ditty, “One two three four five six seven – all good children go to heaven”.

    In Judaism the death of a child is also a tragedy of immense proportions, but our emphasis is not on heaven without earth. If a child dies, God forbid, we don’t so much console ourselves with thoughts of heaven but weep for the opportunities on earth which that child will, alas, never experience.

    Our emphasis is on the earth; it is here that human beings can do mitzvot and weave garlands to the glory of God.

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