Parashat Ki Tavo - September 9th

כי תבוא Ki Tavo

Deuteronomy 26.1—29.8

Deuteronomy 29.10-12: “You stand this day all of you before the Lord your God; the heads of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, and the sojourner who is in your camp, both he who hews your wood and he who draws your water, that you may enter into the sworn covenant of the Lord your God, which the Lord your God makes with you this day.”

Of what covenant, does Moses speak here? Deuteronomy 29.1 says: “These are the words of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the people of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which he had made with them at Horeb.” This clearly indicates that the Moabitic Covenant is different from the Sinaitic Covenant: it is a covenant that relates to the posses­sion of the land of Israel. God, it is true, promised the land of Israel to Abraham and to his seed forever, but this does not mean that the promise is to be applied mechanically without any regard to the spiritual condition of Israel.

The promise was given to Abraham, a man of faith, a man who walked with God, and the promise is intended for an elect people, a holy people that walks with God and is an example and a blessing to all nations. Hence, God made this second covenant (the Moabitic covenant) in which he details the conditions on which Israel can settle in the land and the heavy punishment they would encounter, if they should fail to meet these conditions.

Moses is nearing the end of his life’s career, and a very dramatic scene meets our eyes at the time he reaches the last part of his parting words. God himself appears and causes, as it were, a short pause in Moses' speech by an order that he gives: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, the days approach when you must die; call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tent of meeting, . . . And the Lord appeared in the tent in a pillar of cloud; and the pillar of cloud stood by the door of the tent. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, you are about to sleep with your fathers; then this people will rise and play the harlot after the strange gods of the land, where they go to be among them, and they will forsake me and break my covenant which I have made with them. Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured; and many evils and troubles will come upon them, so that they will say in that day, “Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?” And I will surely hide my face in that day on account of all the evil which they have done, because they have turned to other gods. Now therefore write this song, and teach it to the people of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel.’” (Deut 31.14-19).

Such were the words of God. Moses himself adds at this instance: “For I know how rebellious and stubborn you are; behold, while I am yet alive with you, today you have been rebellious against the Lord; how much more after my death! (Deut 31.27).

It should be noted here that Moses, whose name stands for the Law, was deprived of the privilege to bring the nation to the land of promise, which symbolically confirms that the Law made nothing perfect (Heb 7.19) in the area of man’s contact with God; Joshua/Jesus (same meaning in Hebrew) is the one—the only one—who gives victory and rest.

The thought that the Torah does not bring perfection, and that Moses himself foresaw another and higher stage of divine revelation, is to be discerned in the Torah itself, and we see it in this week’s portion. As we read the first part of this portion, we are amazed to hear Moses speaking of the Diaspora—of their being scattered among the nations—this while the nation was still on the east side of Jordan, before they even saw the land. “And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and return to the Lord your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you this day, with all your heart and with all your soul; . . . If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there he will fetch you.” (Deut 30.1-2, 4).

But how would this solve the fundamental problem, the tenden­cy to depart from the right way, the reason for the Diaspora? What guarantee is there that the nation would not do the same thing again, which would necessitate or deserve another scattering of Israel among the na­tions? In this promise of the return of Israel to the land of promise, Moses mentions a new factor, which would fundamentally change the character of the people and their attitude to God: “The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” (Deut 30.6).

The Prophet Jeremiah expands the thought by saying:

“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast. And it shall come to pass that as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord. In those days they shall no longer say: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ But every one shall die for his own sin. . . . “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer 31.27-34).

The Sinaitic Covenant, the Moabitic Covenant, the New Covenant, according to which God fundamentally changes the heart of man (“I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts”) not in a general national way, but individually (“No longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me.”)—a new man, a new life, based on a new foundation (“I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”). Jesus speaks of a new birth, and Paul says: “If any one is in Messiah, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5.17).

[Ostrovsky, Moses on the Witness Stand, 149-151, quoted by permission of Messianic Publishing Co, a division of Messianic Literature Outreach]

 

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Haftarah: Isaiah 60.1-22

Isaiah 60.1-2 was quoted as proof that Messiah was the light in the beginning. See the entry for Parashat B’reshit.

Isaiah 60.21: “R. Johanan also said: The son of David will come only in a generation that is either altogether righteous or altogether wicked. ‘In a generation that is altogether righteous,’ – as it is written, ‘Your people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever’ (Isa 60.21). ‘Or altogether wicked,’ – as it is written, ‘And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor’ (Isa 59.16); and it is [elsewhere] written, ‘For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it’ (Isa 48.11).” [bSanh. 98a]

Shabbat Shalom!

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