Commentary on Parashat Ki Tavo, Deuteronomy 26:1 - 29:8
Moses continues his last speech before the Israelites, “When you dwell in the promised land, take a selection of the first fruits and bring them to the place God chooses for God’s Name. With a priest you shall make an offering saying, ‘We remember when we were slaves in Egypt. We remember how God brought us to freedom with a strong hand and outstretched arm, with signs and miracles. You, God brought, us to this land flowing with milk and honey. And now I have brought these first fruits that you, God, have given me.’
“You shall cast yourself down before the Presence of God and you shall rejoice in all the good that God has given you and your household. You shall also give portions to the Levite, the stranger, the orphan, and the widow. They shall eat it within your gates and be satisfied. In the third year of giving portions, you shall say in God’s presence that you have followed the commandments for giving regularly to those less fortunate. You shall then ask God to bless the Israelites and the soil.
“On this day God commands you to carry out these laws and social ordinances with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall, today, hearken to God and promise to keep all God’s laws. Today, God said that you shall be a people belonging to God alone. God will place you high above all the nations God has created. You will be a proclamation for God’s Name and for God’s glory. You shall be a holy people to God.
“When you enter the promised land, you shall make an altar with stones to God with the words of this Teaching. You shall make offering there and rejoice before God.”
“Pay attention,” Moses says, “and hear O Israel, on this day you have become a people to God, your God. Follow all of God’s commandments. The priests shall say to the people upon Mount Gerizim: ‘Cursed is the man who makes a graven or molten image which is an abomination to God.’ And all the people shall raise their voices and say, ‘Amen.’
“‘Cursed is he who moves the boundary marker of his neighbor.’ And all the people shall say ‘Amen.’
“‘Cursed is he who misleads a blind man, or twists what is rightfully due to an orphan or stranger or widow.’ And all the people shall say ‘Amen.’
“‘Cursed is he who commits incest, with parent or step-parent or sibling. Cursed is he who lies with any animal.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
“‘Cursed is he who strikes down his neighbor in secret or a takes a bribe to strike down a man in innocent blood. Cursed is he who does not uphold the Teaching to carry them out.’ And all the people shall say: ‘Amen.’
“If you hearken to God and carry out God’s commandments, God will set you above all the nations of the earth. You will be blessed in the city and in the field. Blessed will be the fruit of your body and the fruit of your soil and the fruit of your livestock. Blessed will you be when you come in and when you go out.
“God will deliver your enemies. God will raise you up as a holy nation and you will walk in God’s ways. God will give you rain in its season and bless all the work of your hand. You will lend to many nations but you will not borrow. God will make you a head and not the tail, you will be only above and not below if you hearken to God’s commandments.
“But it shall come to pass that if you will not hearken to the voice of God, nor carry out God’s commandments that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you. Cursed you will be in the city and the field, cursed will be your fruits of your body and soil and livestock. Cursed will you be when you come in and when you go out. God will unleash against you the curse, and you will be restless and feel guilt in everything to which you put your hand, so that you will be destroyed because of your wickedness in forsaking God.
“Since you did not serve God with joy and with gladness of heart, therefore you will serve your enemies whom God will send against you. If you do not fear God’s Name, then God will send to you plagues and sufferings and sicknesses that are evil and enduring. And you will be left only few in number instead of as you were like the stars of the heavens.
“You will be scattered among all the peoples from one end of the earth to another and serve other gods. Among these nations you will find no peace and your heart will be full of trembling and grieving of the soul. You will have terror night and day and no faith in your life. You will be returned to slavery. These are the words of this Covenant at Moab.”
Moses called out to Israel, and said, “Before your eyes in the land of Egypt, you have seen all that God did to the Pharaoh, his servants and his land. These great acts of proof you have seen. I led you for forty years in the wilderness and your clothing and shoes did not wear out. You neither ate bread nor drank wine nor strong drink to know that God is Your God. And you came to this place and your enemies were driven away. Therefore keep carefully the words of this Covenant so that you may practice intelligently everything you do.”
Parashat Ki Tavo Discussion Questions
1) What does it mean that the Jews are “a people belonging to God?” Don’t all people belong to God?
2) If the Israelites choose not to follow God’s laws and walk in God’s ways will the people still belong to God?
3) Do you think God still sends blessings and curses to the Jews? How?
4) How has God blessed and cursed you in your life?
Reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life.