Summary: Ki Tabo is the 7th parasha in the Book of Debarim. It is a continuation of Moshe’s speech to B’nei Yisrael preparing them to enter the land of Cana’an. Ki Tabo is about making public declarations.
The parasha begins with the farmer’s declaration upon bringing Bikurim (first fruits) to the Temple that G-d had fulfilled the promise to Abraham, Isaac & Jacob that their descendants would inherit Cana’an, a land flowing with milk and honey. Second is the personal declaration during the Sabbatical cycle that each individual had separated and distributed correctly their Ma’aser (tithing) to the Levi and the poor.
The third aliyah introduces a new covenant G-d made ‘on this day’ with the Jewish people, promising ‘if you keep the mitsvot I will make you a holy nation’ (Debarim 26:19). The fourth aliyah contains instructions to set up monuments of stone, engraved with words from the Torah, after crossing the Jordan River at Mt Eival.There, too, they would build a sacrificial altar.
The parasha then describes the testimony of the 12 tribes, divided into 2 groups – one atop Mt Gerizim the other atop Mt Eival – where they would pronounce 12 potential curses to which they would respond ‘Amen’. A series of counter-balancing blessings were promised to those who listened to the voice of G-d.
The sixth aliyah offers an expanded, spine-chilling description called Tokhaha(Rebuke). In escalating intensity, the rebuke begins gradually to give the Jewish people opportunity to mend their ways and correct their neglectful behaviour. If they continued to ignore G-d, the Torah foresaw even harsher treatment to follow, until they’d be returned as unwanted slaves to Egypt.
In the final aliyah Moshe’s voice returns to one of optimism, restating all the achievements of their 40 years in the Midbar and their recent conquests of the Trans-Jordan plain.
Comment: Imagining ourselves in Moshe’s presence listening to the speech of Ki Tabo, we would probably be wondering, ‘why is he telling us something that won’t be relevant for years to come?’. In order to fulfil the mitzvah of Bikurim, for example, required occupying, dividing and settling the land, and establishing a place of central worship. It took Joshua more than 2 decades to achieve this.
Upon reflection, we understand Moshe’s aim in using a visual narrative was to anticipate the people’s future in Cana’an. Through forward projection he instilled in the nation an image of achievement.
An oratory technique still used today, we do ourselves a great service by focusing our minds on the good things we want to create or have happen. This then serves as the internal support for when we find ourselves in more trying times. Perhaps this is also a technique we can use in the days leading to Rosh Hashana 5776.