The weekly Torah portion (Hebrew: פָּרָשַׁת הַשָּׁבוּעַ Parashat ha-Shavua, popularly just parasha) is a section of the Torah read publicly and aloud in weekly Jewish prayer services, usually in full during the Shabbat (Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath). Each week, the ECI Young Adults are providing us with a commentary on the week’s parasha.
Parasha Ki Tavo ~ Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8
In this week’s Parasha, Moses continues his last speech to the nation of Israel just as the new generation is on the verge of entering into the promised land, having wandered around the wilderness for forty years. In Deuteronomy 26 Moses instructs Israel on tithes and offerings, teaching them the principle of first fruits. This principle demonstrates the importance of showing gratitude to God and giving Him the credit for all the good things He gives. In addition, the Israelites are instructed to take care of the poor in the community. In Deuteronomy 27, Moses reminds Israel to obey the Lord’s commands. God recognises the importance of writing down the covenant He made with the nation of Israel. As a result, the Israelites are instructed to gather large stones, to plaster them and to engrave the entire Torah upon them.
Moses then instructed the people the manner in which they were to proclaim a list of curses followed by a list of blessings on the Mountains Gerazim and Ebal upon their entry into the promised land. The blessings and curses were recited as oaths by the priests and affirmed by the people at that moment in time. Against this backdrop of blessings and curses, Moses elaborates on the consequences of obedience and disobedience, which may serve an extra incentive for Israel to obey God’s laws with all diligence. In Deuteronomy 28, after listing all the wonderful blessings that God will reward to his chosen people for their obedience, Moses gives a long list of bad things that will result from their disobedience. Parasha Ki-Tavo concludes with a call for commitment to God. Moses reviews the law with the new generation, preparing them to enter into the promised land. Although the covenant between God and the nation of Israel is extensive, it can be summed up in a nutshell: Its main purpose is to bless Israel as a chosen nation so that Israel may bring blessing to the rest of the word. Israel, in return, promised to love God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their strength (Deuteronomy 6:5). Even though Israel would fail numerous times, neglecting the promises they made, God would still keep his part of the agreement.
What stood out to me in this week’s Parasha is the call for (re)commitment to God. Through the books of Moses, God keeps reminding his people that they have been handpicked by God, and that they, in turn, have chosen Him to be their God. God urges his people to honour the covenant they had previously made with Him. He tells them that it is not enough to know the law, they need to obey it. Disobedience results from an act of will rather than a lack of knowledge. In other words, we cannot simply use our lack of knowledge as an excuse to reject God’s authority over our lives. Even as the nation of Israel was about to enter the promised land, Moses acknowledged that the people had not yet received “minds that understand, nor eyes that see, nor ears that hear” (Deuteronomy 29:4). God knew that the people didn’t have the full capacity to obey the law. We should remind ourselves that many righteous people that lived under the Old Covenant longed to see what we see but did not see it, and to hear what we hear but did not hear it (Matthew 13:17). Even today, we as believers who have received the capacity to see, to hear and to understand under the New Covenant, struggle to walk in the fullness God has intended for us.
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
– Hebrews 11:6
Whenever we struggle to see, to hear and understand the will of God, we need to remind ourselves of God’s promises. Why did the Israelites wander around the desert for forty years? It was not because they were unaware the God had promised them land, but because of their lack of faith they failed to follow God wholeheartedly (Numbers 32:11-13). By reading and knowing His Word in times of darkness, we may follow Him wholeheartedly, even if we cannot see how he could possibly lead us through our present challenges.
The European Coalition for Israel is a unique grassroots movement, which is seeking to promote better relations between Europe and Israel through advocacy and education. More information: www.ec4i.org