Ki Tavo, Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8 – Parashat ha Shavuah for Saturday, August 28, 2021

This week’s Torah portion contains a concise version of the Jewish master story, that each Israelite would recite when bringing their first fruits to the Temple for the ritual of Bikkurim, “My father was a wandering Aramean. He went down to Egypt in small numbers and sojourned there; but there they 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 ADONAI, the God of our fathers, and ADONAI heard our plea and saw our plight, our misery, and our oppression. ADONAI freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, and by signs and portents. 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, O LORD, have given me.” (Deuteronomy 26:5-10)
If this sounds familiar it should; it is the central narrative of the Passover Haggadah and the Seder. It is a story of enslavement and Divine intervention in history, leading to liberation. This narrative is the crucible in which Jewish values were formed.
But what were we liberated for? The next line gives us a clue, “And you shall enjoy, together with the Levite and the stranger in your midst, all the bounty that the LORD your God has bestowed upon you and your household.” (Deuteronomy 26:11).
Commenting on this verse, Ibn Ezra (12th Century Spain) wrote, “This means you are obligated to cheer them [the stranger] up with the fruit of your land.” In other words, we were liberated from slavery to welcome the stranger and share our bounty. As slaves, who have experienced oppression we are freed to demonstrate openness, solidarity, and generosity.
That is the world God wants us to help build. In this holy month of Elul may we find the internal commitment to live up to this challenge.