Torah Portion: Ki Tavo(When You Come) D’Varim/Deut. 26:1-29:8
HafTorah: Isaiah 60:1-22
Today we read the Torah section Ki Tavo. This portion has much to say about the blessings and curses that follow obedience or disobedience to the Word of G-d.
However, I would like us to spend most of our time on the first eleven verses of the opening chapter. These verses cover the bringing of the First Fruits offering to the Tabernacle and Temple each year. The ceremony described here occurred each year at the holiday of Shavuot or Festival of Weeks. This holiday always occurs 50 days after Passover when the first fruits of the land were ready for harvest.
The Mishnah, an ancient Jewish commentary, has a beautiful description of this service. Throughout Israel farmers would come to the Tabernacle/Temple and bring their first fruits offering, the very best produce, as an offering to the L-rd. These offerings would be distributed to the widows, orphans, poor of the Land and to the strangers among the people of G-d as well as to the priests in the Temple. The oxen pulling the carts would have their horns overlaid with gold and garlands of flowers around their necks. Music would accompany the procession and the Levites would sing Psalms 30:1, “I will extol You O L-rd, for You have lifted me up, And have not let my foes rejoice over me.”
Then the farmer would recite D’Varim/Deuteronomy 26:3, “I declare today to the L-rd your G-d that I have come to the country which the L-rd swore to our fathers to give us,” as the priest took the offering and waved it before the L-rd. While this happened the person would recite D’Varim/Deuteronomy 26:5-10.
I say all this to help us understand what this service meant to the people and what it has to say to us as well. This service, as well as other holidays in the Jewish calendar, teach us a revolutionary truth. The bringing of a fruit offering occurred in other ancient religions. However, this was done as a worship of nature itself, the sun, moon and stars. However, this ceremony we read about in our verses today teach something completely different. Here we see G-d being brought into history and worshipped, not nature. Our bible here describes a revolutionary idea. G-d was eternal. He was, is, and will be. Here Israel was celebrating G-d, how He shaped history, how He chose His people and most importantly how He redeemed Israel and us too. Judaism was the first to see history as an extended narrative of redemption. Redemption is the theme of biblical history.
This history was made a part of each person’s personal testimony. It was a testimony of who they were, why they lived and why they did what they did each day. It was ever before them. It gave them purpose and meaning to their life. It gave them their identity. Each person, from the youngest to the oldest, rich or poor, king or street sweeper was a part of this history. These holidays, throughout the year, kept these principles alive in their life. These principles were passed on from generation to generation. It is for this reason that the Jews have survived for 5,000 years. They have been exiled, crushed and beaten down but they are still here. They are still here because each year they relive their history and renew their strength by repeating the memories of what G-d has done for them.
So you might ask, what has this to do with us? I think it has a great deal to do with us. When we read Romans 11 we read words like grafted in. (Romans 11:17-18) or words like “Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failures riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! Romans 11:12. We as G-d’s people, through our adoption into the family, have a rich history that began much earlier than we might think. These holidays like the coming days have much to teach us. Yet they are overlooked by most of our brothers and sisters. Even our history of only the last 2,000 years is difficult to fully understand because we have separated ourselves from this cultured olive tree and as a result misunderstand much about who G-d is, what He has for us, and how we are to live. Our history has been muddled, obscured and confused.
Our history should forge us into a people who live our faith everyday. It should be something that we pass on to the next generation. If not, the next generation will continue to walk crippled by lack of understanding of who we are, and what our role is in G-d’s eternal plan. These truths should be the glue that holds us together, that gives us power to fulfill the place G-d has for us in His family instead of living as spiritual orphans who do not know the wonderful history of our true family and how it applies to us.
I close with urging us all to stay connected to the cultured olive tree.
G-d open us up to the full history we have as adopted sons and daughters in Him and in His people. Amen