Parshat Ki Tabo

This week is the 6th of the 7 Haftarot of consolation which will soon lead to Rosh Hashana. A reminder that Rambam Sephardi selihot are at 5:50am at the Elstree Shteible. Services this Sunday are at 7:00am.

Parshat Ki Tabo is the 7th in the Book of Deuteronomy spanning chapters 26:1-29:8. It can be divided broadly into 2 parts; the first section describes the Bikurim (first fruits) ceremony and the Ma’aser (tithing) testimony.

The second section describes the command to set-up plastered stone monuments on the eve of inheriting the Land of Canaan – a new Torah covenant inscribed upon them.

Moshe then sent half the tribes to Mt Ebal and half to Mt Gerizim, where they undertook a 12-pronged oath. The parasha includes blessings Bnei Yisrael would receive for following the Torah and curses for their disloyalty.

Ki Tabo ends with Moshe giving a synopsis of all that transpired since the revelation at Sinai up to the Trans-Jordan conquest, urging Bnei Yisrael to abide by this new covenant.

Comment: In the verses describing the horrifying curses that were to befall Bnei Yisrael for not observing G-d’s commandments, there’s a perplexing pasuk ‘… because you didn’t serve the Almighty from joy and a good heart during your abundance.’ (Deuteronomy 28:47).

It seems incomprehensible for the G-d of Righteousness & Justice to punish an entire people with immense suffering for their lack of ‘a joyous attitude’. And, while from experience we’re resigned to the idea that humans can never understand the ‘mind of G-d’, we recognise many of the problems of humanity stem from failing to recognise the undeserved blessings we constantly receive from the Almighty.

The Bikurim farmer’s testimony before the Kohen at the beginning of Ki Tabo, encapsulating Jewish history all the way back to the life of Abraham, recognises G-d’s benevolence. Ignoring the Divine Will behind Creation can instead lead to an uninhibited life pursuing passions and desires to excess.

Perhaps a message of the curses is that when human beings deny the universal laws of the Almighty, we’re exposed instead to an internecine world of random aggression and violence that makes even the frighteningly-unimaginable possible.