Torah Portion: Ki Tavo (When You Come) D’Varim (Deuteronomy) 26:1-29:8
Haftorah Reading Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 60:1-22
Tonight, we read the Torah portion Ki Tavo. This portion begins with the bringing of the First Fruits offering. This offering was to be distributed to the priests, Levites and the poor. You also might notice each person was to recite the words of D’Varim/Deut. 26:5-10. One effect of this declaration was to solidify in the minds of the people who they were and where their harvest came from. They were part of a people who stretched back to Avraham and G-d’s promises.
I was considering this this week and how in our faith we should be able to look back and see our place in the history of faith. Our faith is part of this same history. Paul said in Romans 11 we have been grafted in to the olive tree of Israel. We must remember who we are and what that faith requires of us in our life. How we are to live our physical and spiritual life is of the utmost importance. We did not just spring up out of nothing but are part of the work of G-d that has been growing over the millennium. So, as we study each week I pray you can see yourself in that line of the faithful.
Now to my first question of the week; what does it mean to walk in the ways of G-d as stated in D’Varim/Deut 28:9? Before I hear your answers I want to make a few observations from a word used in Hebrew throughout this portion as well as the entire book of D’Varim. In 27:9-10 we read Moshe saying, “take heed and listen.” In this opening statement Moshe used the Hebrew word, “Shema.” This word is used 92 times in this book of Torah. We read it usually as listen in English. So, in this statement G-d is saying, pay attention, hear what I am saying to you. It is important.
One interesting fact is that in Hebrew there is no word for obey. Rather the word listen is used, making the point that our faith is about listening to what G-d is saying and by that listening we internalize His voice and do His will as it becomes a part of us and how we are to live. Remember, at this time in the life of these people they had been 40 years in the wilderness. G-d supplied everything for them. They had water, food, shelter and clothing. They had shoes that did not wear out through the 40 years. In many ways they were like children in their relationship with their Father. Things were about to change. They would have to grow up. Moshe would die soon and their future would depend on what they had heard and how they had internalized G-d’s words. It had to become their own guiding light as it must become ours. So, when we get to D’Varim/Deut. 28:9 and read, “The L-rd will establish you as His Holy people, as He swore to you if you do His commandments and walk in His ways.” It seems that to be a person of G-d we must do His will, what He has said as we learn to walk in His ways. What are the ways of G-d? He is merciful, just, loving and faithful, to list only a few. So, to walk in His ways basically means these qualities should be evident in our own lives. We see the same idea spelled out in the Messianic scriptures in Galatians 5:22-23. Here in our reading Moshe is saying to the people they are to imitate the Father. Our life should be lived by emulating Him in our daily life. We do the right thing, not out of fear but because it just is the right thing. It is a result of who we are in the Father. It begins with listening to Him. This causes us to meditate, to reflect in where we are and who we are. We remember how it was to be a slave to the world. This process causes gratitude and thankfulness to well up in our life. G-d is not a tyrant who forces us to do His will. Rather, He is a teacher. We do His will because we are His children. We have listened and heard His voice. We are His.
This brings me to my last question of the week. In D’Varin/Deut. 26:11 we read, “You shall rejoice.” How can someone be commanded to rejoice? We see a hint in the end of this verse. We see all the goodness G-d has done for us. In the Messianic scriptures we can read many verses that speak to this. Philippians 4:4 is one such verse, “Rejoice in the L-rd always, again I say rejoice.” Also, to clarify, rejoice does not mean to be happy always but to rejoice always.
I believe that things are allowed by the Father and some of these things can be painful. Our approach can be to shake our fist at the Father and scream. However, a more productive response would be to reframe whatever it is that G-d has allowed to come into our life as, “What can I learn from this? What is G-d teaching me through this?” We look back to the things we know about Him and see that there is a purpose for everything that He allows in our life. Find that purpose and rejoice.