Elan Javanfard, L.M.F.T.
Parshat Ki Tavo spells out the blessings and curses first introduced earlier in Sefer Devarim prior to Bnei Yisrael’s entry into Ertz Yisrael. As the Parasha ends, Moshe Rabeiynu imparts a message of empowerment to the Bnei Yisrael, reminding them of their ability to uphold the covenant and follow the commandments. He instills in them the belief that they possess the necessary skills and strength to overcome challenges by focusing on positive actions. This notion of linkage between actions and outcomes closely resonates with the concept of self-efficacy.
Self-efficacy, as proposed by psychologist Albert Bandura, refers to an individual's belief in their ability to successfully execute tasks and achieve desired outcomes. This belief profoundly influences one's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, impacting their willingness to take on challenges and persevere in the face of adversity. This belief in self-efficacy plays a significant role in shaping human behavior, motivation, and achievement. People with higher levels of self-efficacy are more likely to set ambitious goals, persevere in the face of obstacles, and recover quickly from setbacks. Moshe Rabeiynu’s final summons of the nation is clear example of how self-efficacy can be a driving force behind individual and collective success.
In the passukim of Deuteronomy 29:1-8 , Moshe Rabeiynu gathers the people to remind them of their achievements, mistakes, and the miracles they've witnessed. He emphasizes their responsibility to uphold the covenant, linking their actions to the outcomes they will experience. The Gemarah in Avodah Zarah 5b says that a student doesn’t fully understand his teach until after forty years. At this point, we had reached 40 years of studentship under our leader. Seeing how Hashem would begin to expect more from Bnei Yisrael now, Moshe Rabeiynu masterfully instilled self-efficacy into us that can be described as the essence of the spirit of the Jewish Nation – a confidence that flows from our past leading to our future.
The Passuk 29:3 states “ Velo-natan Hashem lachem lev lada'at ve'einayim lir'ot ve'oznayim lishmoa' ad hayyom hazzeh, - Yet to this day Hashem has not given you a mind to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.” Rashi elaborates that Hashem had not given metaphorically those senses until this exact moment to understand the loving-kindnesses of Hashem and to follow his path. The Siftei Chakhamim further elucidates Rashi, sharing that the Torah will be the unifying factor that provides us confidence to overcome challenges. As encapsulated by David HaMelech in Psalms 31:25 “chizku veya'ametz levavchem kol-hammeyachalim laHashem - Be strong and of good courage, all you who wait for Hashem.”
Based on the Parasha, here are three tips to increase self-efficacy:
- Acknowledging Achievements:
Celebrate your successes, no matter how small. Recognize your progress and give yourself credit for your accomplishments. Reflect on the skills and efforts that led to your achievements, reinforcing your belief in your abilities.
- Learning from Mistakes:
View mistakes as opportunities for growth. Instead of dwelling on failures, focus on the lessons they provide. Analyze what went wrong, identify areas for improvement, and use this knowledge to refine your approach next time.
- Embracing Challenges with Confidence:
Shift your perspective on challenges from threats to opportunities. Remind yourself of past instances where you successfully tackled difficulties. Approach challenges with a positive attitude, believing in your capacity to learn and adapt.
In our lives today, the concept of self-efficacy remains as relevant as ever. When we approach our tasks and goals with a belief in our capabilities, we are more likely to persevere in the face of obstacles. Parshat Ki Tavo encourages us to cultivate self-efficacy by acknowledging our achievements, learning from our mistakes, and embracing challenges with a sense of confidence. Just as the Bnei Yisrael’s self-efficacy was deeply tied to their connection with Hashem, our belief in ourselves can be intertwined with our faith and inner strength.
Elan Javanfard, M.A., L.M.F.T. is a Consulting Psychotherapist focused on behavioral health redesign, a Professor of Psychology at Pepperdine University, & a lecturer related to Mindfulness, Evidence Based Practices, and Suicide Prevention. Elan is the author of Psycho-Spiritual Insights: Exploring Parasha & Psychology, weekly blog. He lives in Los Angeles Pico Robertson community with his wife and two children and can be reached at Elan.Javanfard@gmail.com.