This week’s parasha is entitled Ki Tavo, meaning “when you enter.” It covers Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8 (9). God gave very detailed statutes and ordinances that applied specifically to Israel’s inheritance, as they settled into the land of Canaan.
Our parasha opens with two Declarations: the first one concerns the offering of Firstfruits and the second one concerns the annual tithe.
For the Firstfruits offering, the sons of Israel were commanded to take the best of the produce they harvested and honor the LORD. The farmer took his gift, as instructed, to a place that the LORD had chosen. He presented his gift to the Priest and testified before him, by proclaiming that he was the first of his generation of Israelis to enter the land of Canaan. Second, he identified himself with his ancestors who had been enslaved, mistreated, afflicted and forced into hard labor; but the God of his ancestors heard their prayers and redeemed his people. This was also a reminder that his ancestors were few in number when they entered Egypt, but later became a great nation, which fulfilled God’s promise. In addition, he acknowledged that the first fruits of the produce he brought were the yield of the fertile land that God gave him. He placed his basket before the Lord and bowed down to Him in worship, along with his household, his servants, and the priest, praising the goodness of God.
The chapter continues with the annual tithe accumulated over a three-year period. The Israelis were required to take a tenth of all their crops, cattle born and of all the profits; nothing was to be held back from God. Moses commanded Israel to deliver the tithe to the Sanctuary and offer it to the Levite, the foreigner, the poor, and the widow. This provided for their needs, since none of them owned any land.
This principal was an act of gratitude, thanking and acknowledging God as the Source of the land’s richness. The Israelis were reminded forty times, just in Deuteronomy alone, that God is the true Owner of the land, which was His gift to them.
Thanking God was not only a verbal form of gratitude, but a fulfillment of the obligation to acknowledge God for His goodness. The giver should do this with great joy, offering his very best to God, and thanking Him for keeping His promise, to bless the land with an abundant harvest.
Moses ends his speech concerning Firstfruits and the tithe, by commanding Israel to make a public confession that they acknowledge the Lord as their God and promise to walk in His ways.
God’s blessing always requires obedience. In Chapter 27 Moses said: “Pay attention.” He then gave the commandment that they renew God’s covenant once they entered the land of Canaan. They held an elaborate ceremony in Shechem, where Abraham first received the promise of inheriting the land. Let’s explore the meaning of this covenant.
First, they built an altar of uncut stones on Mount Ebal, covered them with plaster, and wrote the laws of God on the altar. They also sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings on the altar. The picture of the law and the sacrifice together shows the relationship between law and grace. The law brought a curse upon man because it revealed his sinfulness (Gal. 3:13), but the altar was a symbol of the forgiveness grounded in the mercy of God. By connecting the sacrificial ceremony with the Law, Israel was given a practical demonstration of how it could settle the tension between perfect justice and redemption. In verse 11, Moses charged Israel to put the blessing on Mount Gerizim. He separated the tribes into two groups, six tribes on Mount Ebal and six tribes on Mount Gerizim. This same charge was given to Joshua earlier concerning these two mountains.
In order for Israel to enjoy God’s blessings, they needed to agree to His covenant. Therefore, Moses and the Levites stood in the valley between the two mountains and loudly pronounced the twelve curses for breaking God’s commandments. The sons of Israel acknowledged by saying “Amen!”.
How serious was this covenant with God? This chapter is the most solemn in all of Deuteronomy. There are 68 verses that deal with the curses of captivity, plagues, the land not producing, Israel going into exile and being scattered. Also, chapter 29 further detailed the curses in the Covenant, if Israel disobeyed Adonai. His anger would be against them if they worshipped other gods. He would remove them from the Land of Promise and cast them into another land.
The purpose of the curses was to evoke the fear of God and remind them that what people do in private or in secret is not hidden from God. He sees everything and knows everything. The common theme in this parasha is obedience.
In conclusion, let’s consider Abraham: a man chosen and given the promise that God would make him a great nation, make his name great, and that he would be a blessing to all nations. God called, elected and missioned him to leave his home, family, and familiar surroundings, and to travel to an unfamiliar land. He heard God’s voice, humbled himself and obeyed without question or hesitation.
Abraham’s faith and obedience grew through his relationship with God. His faith was tested when he was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac. Through his journeys and time spent with God, Abraham learned humility. He worshiped and served Adonai, and interceded for others, persevering in prayer as he pleaded with God for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. God used a man who once was an idol worshiper and transformed him into the Father of our Faith. In fact, according to Scripture, God called Abraham His friend.
Those who are justified by faith, through Messiah Yeshua, are regarded as children of Abraham, and are included in the blessing.
“Lord help us to listen and obey You and not waver in our faith.”