The name of this week’s parasha is Ki Tavo, which means “when you enter in” and covers Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8. In chapter 26, Moses instructed the Israelis on honoring God with the first fruits of the harvest after they settled in the Promised Land, including a declaration of His mighty deeds in bringing them into the Land. In the 3rd year (the year of the tithe), they were to provide a tithe to the Levites, to the aliens in their midst, and to orphans and widows. This is something Moses previously commanded them in Deuteronomy 14. Israel was to verbally affirm their commitment to obey the Lord’s commandment.
Moses reminded the Israelis that they had sworn obedience to God’s commandments. If they continued in obedience, Adonai would cause them to be honored and respected above every nation He created, because they were His people. A description of the future blessings flowing from other nations into Israel is also foretold in Isaiah 60, the haftarah portion to this parasha, and is a wonderful picture of God’s gracious provisions to His people.
Israel was instructed in chapter 27 on the procedures for sacrificing offerings to Adonai upon entering the Promised Land. They were to coat large stones with plaster, write the words of this law on these stones, and set the stones on Mt. Ebal. The Jewish people were to build an altar to Adonai with fieldstones for burnt offerings and fellowship offerings.
Moses then reaffirmed that the Israelis were God’s people, and instructed them to follow the commandments. Upon crossing into Canaan, 6 tribes (Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin) were to stand on Mt. Gerizim and pronounce blessings for obedience; the other 6 tribes (Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali) were to stand on Mt. Ebal and pronounce curses for disobedience. These mountains were previously designated for these roles back in chapter 11.
The Levites were to announce 12 specific sins: idolatry, dishonoring one’s parents, moving boundary stones, misleading the blind, withholding justice from the powerless, a man sleeping with his father’s wife, or his sister, or his mother-in-law, or any animal, committing murder, taking bribes to kill an innocent person, and not carrying out the words of this Law. Anyone who committed any of these would be cursed. At the mountain, the Israelis were to verbally affirm these standards.
In chapter 28, Moses listed the blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. If Israel obeyed Adonai’s commandments, they would be blessed with many children and livestock, protection from their enemies, and would be so wealthy that they would lend to many nations, and never have to borrow. But their disobedience would result in the obliteration of their crops and possessions, the destruction of their families, increase in sorrow and diseases (including some of the plagues with which Adonai struck Egypt), and the loss of authority and respect from the nations around them. They would become debtors, instead of lenders. They would suffer persecution and defeat from their enemies, starvation to the point of cannibalism, exile from their land, and have no peace and security while in exile.
Chapter 29 concludes the parasha, letting the reader know that these terms of the Covenant were given to Israel while they were in Moab, in addition to the Covenant they made with Adonai in Horeb. Moses summarizes God’s protection of the Jewish people during their journey to the Promised Land, though he notes that they didn’t understand what Adonai had done for them.
Rabbi Paul references Deuteronomy 29 and the spiritual blindness of the Israelis in his discussion of election in Romans chapter 11. The Jewish people who rejected Messiah Yeshua were, and are, imitating the stubbornness of their ancestors.
Parasha Ki Tavo teaches us that obedience to God’s commandments brings blessings and protection, while disobedience causes pain and suffering. Although this principle seems simple enough, it’s impossible for us to attain by our own efforts, because we have been completely infected and corrupted by sin.
Rabbi Paul expounds on this in Galatians 3:10 by referencing the last curse from Deuteronomy 27, in that those who don’t fully carry out what God has commanded are cursed; anyone who claimed Torah observance as their basis of righteousness are cursed due to their inability to fully keep it.
Thankfully, our righteousness is not found in our own goodness or efforts, but in Messiah Yeshua, who has reconciled Messianic Jews and Gentile Christians to God! Loyalty and obedience to Yeshua is our calling as His followers, so let’s obey Messiah Yeshua by doing what He commanded us and tell others about the Good News that salvation is found only through Him, for He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life!