Parashat KiTavo: Embedding in the past

Rabbi SchellIn Ki Tavo the Israelites are commanded to bring their first fruits as an offering: “When you come into the land that the Eternal your God is giving you for an inheritance and have taken possession of it and live in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from your land that the Eternal your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place that the Eternal your God will choose, to make his name to dwell there. And you shall go to the priest that shall be in those days and say to him, ‘I declare today to the Eternal your God that I have come into the land that the Eternal swore to our fathers to give us.’ Then the priest shall take the basket from your hand and set it down before the altar of the Eternal your God.”

In this brief passage we see the past, present and future, as the text attempts, in its day, to secure the future by means of its being embedded in the past. It envisions a future in which the Israelites will have inherited the land promised to them by God. In a commentary on this portion, Nehama Leibowitz reminds us of the passage in the Haggadah that says that in every generation every Jew is obligated to see him or herself as if he or she personally had gone out of Egypt. Similarly, this passage concerning first fruits seeks to secure the future through attachment to a narrative about a shared past. It would not be enough for the Israelites of the future to complacently consider the land merely an inheritance from long dead ancestors. They would have to behave as, and therefore come to believe themselves to be, one with the very generation that had been so dramatically redeemed. Thus, the bringing of first fruits was not only a ritual of recollection but also of re-enactment.

Only a few days separate us from the Days of Awe – they offer each and every one of us the possibility to review our past, to see where we are, and to create a vision for the future. By doing so, we make sure that our decisions and acts are based on solid ground, and are strong enough to carry us into the next year.  Shabbat Shalom – Rabbi Adrian M Schell (Source: Cantor Gershon Silins, Ki Tavo)

The prayers of the High Holy Days – Workshop. The first session will be this Thursday,
3 September @ 18.00 in the Rondavel. This study session is open for all. Please bring your Machzorim.

The Torah Study Breakfast Shiur with Rabbi Schell continues on Shabbat, 05 September at 08.45.

Podcast of Rabbi Schell’s weekly Radio Sermons on Radio Today, follow http://betdavid.podomatic.com/.

Torah Reading for Shabbat Ki Tavo:
Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8 (Reading: 26:1-27:5 – Plaut p.1350; Hertz p.859)
Haftarah: Isaiah 60:1-22 (Plaut 1368; Hertz p.874)

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