Torah Portion: Ki Tavo (When You Come) D’varim(Deut.) 26-29
Haftorah Reading: Isaiah 60:1-22
Tonight we read the Torah portion that contains some perplexing and difficult verses that talks about the curses that will befall the Jewish people in the future. I want us to speak of these later. It also talks of the “Bikurim Blessings,” which in English is the first fruit offering. I want to start with this subject and then end with a discussion of the curses listed in our portion.
Let’s take a look at the First Fruits offering, found in Deut. 26:1-11, and see what we can learn for our own lives. Keep in mind this commandment applied to the harvest grown in Israel, and is thought to pertain specifically to the seven things mentioned in Deut. 8:8. Also, this offering was brought for the first time only after Israel had conquered the land and settled it. So that is the simple apparent reasoning behind this offering. But let us go deeper. What was the spiritual point of this offering to the people? I think first it showed them and us to maintain a thankful heart for all that G-d has done for them and us. It also expresses the fact that G-d is our Provider, and whatever we have comes from His Hand. By this dedication we are expressing the knowledge that it is all His. It also should remind us of the purpose of what G-d expects from us in our lives.
To help us maybe we can look at another fruit and what happened when people were expected to listen to their Creator but chose not to. In Genesis 3:5-12 we read of the account of Adam and Hava/Eve. Maybe more troubling than taking the forbidden fruit was Adam’s reaction when confronted by G-d. He does not express remorse for his actions but blames his wife, the same wife G-d had provided for him. Instead of remorse for his actions or gratitude for what G-d had given him, he tries to shift the blame. The real true test of man is not whether we fail, for we all do, the greater test is if we take responsibility for what we do and thank G-d for what He has done for us. Appreciation for what G-d has done and does for us is really the foundation for our spiritual life and growth. Our big problem comes when we feel entitled to what we have.
This time of Bikurim or First Fruits is a time to remind us of the fact that all we have belongs to G-d. He has entrusted us with what we have but he still holds the title and expects we use what He has given us for His glory and to fulfill His purpose in this world. Sometimes to remind us G-d allows events to disrupt our life style and schedule. He reminds us that He is the source and purpose of everything. He is everything! Bless His Name. This brings me to our other topic – the curses we read about in this Torah portion. We can see them listed in Deut. 28:15-68.
First let me say, I think this list of curses applies on a national basis. Historically, with Israel as an example we can read and see where people as a group or nation suffered terribly. In our world today we can see it happening. The troubling question is, in these national curses the innocent suffer along with the guilty. Today, many Syrian Christians are dying for the sins committed by their nation that they may have had no part in. But, never the less they suffer along with everyone else. In these situations how do we answer the question of why? I believe actually this is the wrong question. The question should be, “Where is G-d when these things happen?” I expect the martyrs of the First Century church asked it often. In fact Yeshua even asked it on the cross, “My G-d, My G-d why have You forsaken me?” Where are you? It is important for us to hold on to the fact that G-d is always with us even in times when we feel alone and forgotten. He is there.
Now on a personal level when bad things happen to good people how am I to deal with it? In these times I believe we may never know why. And maybe the “why” isn’t really the issue. A much more important issue is that G-d is there with us. When we stand before Him, I believe He will tell us that He was there. He will tell us that He hurt as we were hurting and He loved us then and walked with us and maybe even carried us through the experience. So our fight is to allow our faith to hold fast to the fact that our G-d is in everything. He never leaves us or forsakes us. The why we may never know but the where was G-d we can always know.
Maybe to help, think of some traumatic time in your own life, when you where going through a difficult experience. Picture that same event but with G-d there with you, suffering with you. Because that is actually what happens in our lives. He is always there, grieving and rejoicing in the middle of everything we experience in our lives.