Devarim 26:1-29:8 [Hebcal] [על התורה] דברים כו א-כט ח
Haftarah: Yeshayahu 60:1-22 (all) | Sixth of the “Seven of Consolation”
הפטרה: ישעיהו ס א-כב (ע”פ כל המנהגים) | שבע דנחמתא 6
- The Bikkurim Ritual (Arami Oved Avi)
- Maasrot (Agricultural Tithes)
- Reminder of the Covenant
- Instructions for Crossing the Yarden
- Curses (Tochecha), Part 2
- The Covenant of Arvot Moav
- Haftarah Summary: קומי אורי כי בא אורך
Ki Tavo opens with a ritual slated for future use, when the people bring their first-fruits to Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). Following this is a reminder about tithing crops. Keeping with the preparations to cross into the promised land, another section of blessings and curses is presented. After this, Moshe begins a farewell address that reminds the people where they’ve been.
The Bikkurim Ritual (Arami Oved Avi)
The instructions in this section pertain to the period after Bnei Yisrael settle in the Land of Israel and are engaged in agriculture. At that point, first fruits (מֵרֵאשִׁית כָּל פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה) must be brought to the place that Hashem will later designate as the site of Beit ha-Mikdash (the Jerusalem Temple, which at this point in time and for many years after settlement in the Land, did not yet exist). It is explicitly stated that the produce must be place in a basket (טֶּנֶא – teneh) and brought to the kohanim (priests).
The person bringing the first fruits recites an opening formula, then hands the basket to the priest, who places it on the Mizbeach (altar). The bringer than recites a standard speech that is familiar from the Pesach Haggada:
אֲרַמִּי אֹבֵד אָבִי וַיֵּרֶד מִצְרַיְמָה וַיָּגָר שָׁם בִּמְתֵי מְעָט וַיְהִי שָׁם לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל עָצוּם וָרָב: וַיָּרֵעוּ אֹתָנוּ הַמִּצְרִים וַיְעַנּוּנוּ וַיִּתְּנוּ עָלֵינוּ עֲבֹדָה קָשָׁה: וַנִּצְעַק אֶל ה’ אֱלֹקי אֲבֹתֵינוּ וַיִּשְׁמַע ה’ אֶת קֹלֵנוּ וַיַּרְא אֶת עָנְיֵנוּ וְאֶת עֲמָלֵנוּ וְאֶת לַחֲצֵנוּ: וַיּוֹצִאֵנוּ ה’ מִמִּצְרַיִם בְּיָד חֲזָקָה וּבִזְרֹעַ נְטוּיָה וּבְמֹרָא גָּדֹל וּבְאֹתוֹת וּבְמֹפְתִים: וַיְבִאֵנוּ אֶל הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה וַיִּתֶּן לָנוּ אֶת הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבָשׁ: וְעַתָּה הִנֵּה הֵבֵאתִי אֶת רֵאשִׁית פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַתָּה לִּי ה’
“My father was a fugitive [or: pursued, or: wandering] Aramean. He went down to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there; but there he became a great and very populous nation. The Egyptians dealt harshly with us and oppressed us; they imposed heavy labor upon us. We cried to Hashem, the G-d of our fathers, and Hashem heard our plea and saw our plight, our misery, and our oppression. Hashem freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, and by signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Wherefore I now bring the first fruits of the soil which You, Hashem, have given me.”Devarim 26:5-10
This compact retelling of the story of Bnei Yisrael is the source material for the midrash (rabbinic expansion) that is recited as part of the Seder meal.
Maasrot (Agricultural Tithes)
Bnei Yisrael are reminded of the law, stated in Devarim 14:28-29, that in the third year, each person growing crops must set aside a tenth for the Levites, who have no land of their own, and the needy. They are then to distribute this allotment in their settlements. There is a declaration here too for what the person must say after they have discharged this obligation.
Reminder of the Covenant
The special relationship between G-d and Israel is expressed in tender terms in this section of the text:
הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה יְהוָה אֱלֹקיךָ מְצַוְּךָ לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת הַחֻקִּים הָאֵלֶּה וְאֶת הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים וְשָׁמַרְתָּ וְעָשִׂיתָ אוֹתָם בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשֶׁךָ:אֶת ה’ הֶאֱמַרְתָּ הַיּוֹם לִהְיוֹת לְךָ לֵאלֹקים וְלָלֶכֶת בִּדְרָכָיו וְלִשְׁמֹר חֻקָּיו וּמִצְוֹתָיו וּמִשְׁפָּטָיו וְלִשְׁמֹעַ בְּקֹלוֹ: וַה’ הֶאֱמִירְךָ הַיּוֹם לִהְיוֹת לוֹ לְעַם סְגֻלָּה כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר לָךְ וְלִשְׁמֹר כָּל מִצְוֹתָיו: וּלְתִתְּךָ עֶלְיוֹן עַל כָּל הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לִתְהִלָּה וּלְשֵׁם וּלְתִפְאָרֶת וְלִהְיֹתְךָ עַם קָדֹשׁ לַה’ אֱלֹקיךָ כַּאֲשֶׁר :דִּבֵּר
Hashem your G-d commands you this day to observe these laws and rules; observe them faithfully with all your heart and soul. You have affirmed this day that Hashem is your G-d, that you will walk in His ways, that you will observe His laws and commandments and rules, and that you will obey Him. And Hashem has affirmed this day that you are, as He promised you, His treasured people (am segula) who shall observe all His commandments, and that He will set you, in fame and renown and glory, high above all the nations that He has made; and that you shall be, as He promised, a holy people to Hashem your G-d.Devarim 26:16-19
Instructions for Crossing the Yarden
Bnei Yisrael are instructed that, once they have crossed the Yarden (Jordan River), they must set up plastered stones on which the Torah is written on Har Eival (Mt. Ebal). The commentators are divided on what precisely was written on the plastered stones. Sotah 32a states that the entire Torah was written on them in the seventy languages (i.e., all the languages of the world). This is cited by Ramban on Devarim 27:3, who maintains that the entire Torah appeared on the stones. He disagrees with the assessment of Ibn Ezra on Devarim 27:1, who suggests, following R. Saadia Gaon, that the stones only included a listing of the commandments.
In addition to the plastered stones, they are to erect an altar of unhewn stone there, which has not been worked by metal implements. It is to be used for zevachim (animal offerings).
Har Eival is also to be the site of the pronunciation of blessings and curses, per the instructions about the ceremony of Har Gerizim and Har Eival in Parashat Re’eh. Now we are given more details about this ceremony:
אֵלֶּה יַעַמְדוּ לְבָרֵךְ אֶת הָעָם עַל הַר גְּרִזִים בְּעָבְרְכֶם אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן שִׁמְעוֹן וְלֵוִי וִיהוּדָה וְיִשָּׂשכָר וְיוֹסֵף וּבִנְיָמִן: וְאֵלֶּה יַעַמְדוּ עַל הַקְּלָלָה בְּהַר עֵיבָל רְאוּבֵן גָּד וְאָשֵׁר וּזְבוּלֻן דָּן וְנַפְתָּלִי:
After you have crossed the Jordan, the following shall stand on Mount Gerizim when the blessing for the people is spoken: Shimon, Levi, Yehuda, Issachar, Yosef, and Binyamin. And for the curse, the following shall stand on Mount Ebal: Reuven, Gad, Asher, Zevulun, Dan, and Naftali.Devarim 27:12-13
A section of curses follows, though a more bitter group of curses occurs below. They people are to repeat “Amen” after each curse is pronounced on the mountain.
Juxtaposed with the next section of Tochecha (rebuke), this section of blessings describe the abundant goodness that the people will experience is they keep G-d’s commandments. The first blessings/curses section, known as Tochecha, occurred in Sefer Vayikra, in Parashat Bechukotai.
A notable theme in the blessings is the connection between the people’s behavior and the fertility of the Land and of its people and animals.
Curses (Tochecha), Part 2
The section of curses that follows is a bitter, disturbing one. It reverses the blessings just mentions, but speaks of crushing exile, extreme human cruelty, and harrowing need befalling the people.
The Covenant of Arvot Moav
Moshe opens this speech by reminding the people of what they have seen “before your very eyes” (אֲשֶׁר רָאוּ עֵינֶיךָ) and experienced during the long forty years of wandering. Ibn Ezra on Devarim 29:2 explains that different parts of this opening are addressed to different audiences, such that not all the people present, for example, witnessed the miracles surrounding Yetiziyat Mitzrayim (the exodus from Egypt). Moshe reminds the people of their military victories against King Sichon of Cheshbon and King Og of tthe Bashan. The speech continues in the next parsha, Nitzavim.
Haftarah Summary: קומי אורי כי בא אורך
The comforting vision provided by this haftarah (perek 60 of Yeshayahu) is centered around a thriving, rebuilt Yerushalayim to which all the nations of the world look. The haftarah opens:
קוּמִי אוֹרִי כִּי בָא אוֹרֵךְ וּכְבוֹד ה’ עָלַיִךְ זָרָח׃
Arise, shine, for your light has dawned;Yeshayahu 60:1
The Presence of Hashem has shone upon you!
And near its conclusion, it includes this encouragement:
לֹא־יָבוֹא עוֹד שִׁמְשֵׁךְ וִירֵחֵךְ לֹא יֵאָסֵף כִּי ה’ יִהְיֶה־לָּךְ לְאוֹר עוֹלָם וְשָׁלְמוּ יְמֵי אֶבְלֵךְ׃
Your sun shall set no more,Yeshayahu 60:20
Your moon no more withdraw;
For Hashem shall be a light to you forever,
And your days of mourning shall be ended.
Image: Children holding baskets of bikkurim for Shavuot, Israel, 1950s [source].