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Parashat Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy) 26:1-29:8

“You are to guard the tenets of this covenant and fulfill them,
in order that you succeed in everything that you do.” (Deuteronomy 29:8)

Parashat Ki Tavo opens with the ritual of offering bikkurim, the first fruits of the land, and continues with yet another listing of the blessings the Israelites will receive by following the Torah and the curses they will receive if they don’t. It’s a recurring trope in Deuteronomy.

In between, Ki Tavo proclaims, “…On this day you have become a people to Adonai your God.” (Deut. 27:9) It’s a puzzling statement; haven’t the Israelites been God’s people since the revelation at Sinai, 38 years before? The explanation is found by connecting two sets of verses appearing elsewhere in the parasha, or portion.

At the end of the parasha, Moses states, “…You have seen everything that Adonai did as you watched in the land of Egypt, to Pharoah and to his entire land. The great miracles that you witnessed, those great signs and wonders.” (Deut 28:1,2) It’s not particulalry true, since Moses is speaking to the generation born and raised in the desert, who did not witness personally the plagues, the parting of the sea, or the revelation at Mt. Sinai.

But the ceremony of offering bikkurim requires a public declaration, part of which states, “And Adonai took us out of Egypt with a powerful hand and an outstretched arm and with great display of signs and wonders.” (Deut. 26:8) And that’s the missing puzzle piece. By making that statement, each Israelite steps back into history, effectively saying, “This story is my story.” Claiming ownership of the shared memory is an affirmation of belonging and is the final, necessary step in becoming a people.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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