Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #50: Ki Tavo (When you come) D’varim (Deuteronomy) 26:1-29:8(9)
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah 60:1-22)
B’rit Chadashah: Romans 11:1-15
In the first paragraph of this parashah, we learn how G-d expects us to prioritize our response to His blessings. That is, when the people came into the land G-d promised them, they were to take the first fruits of all, their crops present them to the cohen, who would place the basket in front of the altar of Adonai. The individual making the offering was then required to verbally recall their history from Abraham, whose ancestors came from a people in Northern Syria; their exile in the desert, and their subsequent deliverance and arrival in the land at the “hand” of Adonai. Then the basket was placed before the altar, and the individual prostrated themselves before Adonai with joy for all the good Adonai provides (note the present tense).Then they would affirm their motivation for their offerings in addition to an offering made every third year for the Levites, foreigners, widows, and orphans by verbalizing their intent and honesty in making the offering. This ritual served as a constant reminder of where our hearts need to be before making our tithes and offerings.
The ketubah (marriage contract) originally made at Sinai between G-d and the Israelites was repeated in verses 16-17. In turn, the love of G-d for His people as his special treasure is reiterated with the understanding that they are to observe all His commands so that they will be raised high above all the nations in praise, reputation, and glory; and that they will be a holy people for G-d. This paragraph is a clear indication that at our current time in history, G-d’s people have not arrived at this point. The Israelites then and all true believers now are not praised, raised above the nations, or enjoying an honorable reputation. Believers are now being singled out as intolerant, evil enemies of those promoting the abominations against G-d. Believers can rest assured this “persecution” has only begun and for some will even result in martyrdom. Indeed, the restoration of Jerusalem as a place of praise with G-d’s people accurately described as “holy” clearly alludes to the future. Supporting scripture is found in Isaiah chapter 60 and Ezekiel chapters 36-37; Psalm 86:9; Psalm 102:16; Jeremiah 30:1-38:22; Isaiah 59:20-21 as a few examples. In the B’rit Chadashah there are other examples that Israel’s restoration is yet to come: Acts 15:14-16; Acts 3:19; Romans 11:25-26,29.
In preparation for the renewal of the covenant under Y’hoshua the process was described by Moshe and agreed upon by the elders and priests. First, stones were to be erected on which portions of the commands were copied and made public for reading. Then an altar was to be made as the place to offer sacrifices. The place for this was Mount Ebal which also served as the place where the curses were to be read to all the Israelites. These inscribed stones were a way to preserve the agreement made between the Israelites and G-d for future generations. Keeping to their separateness from the pagan cultures, the stones were unhewn versus being cut out of an outcropping and decorated with idols.
Against Mount Ebal southward was Mount Gerizim where the blessings were to be read. Mount Gerizim was not far from the city of Shechem. Mount Ebal had a natural concavity in the hillside that made for excellent acoustics. In the valley between the two groups of tribes is where the altar and the stones were placed. Burnt offerings and peace offerings were offered at this alter, between the two mountains representing the blessings and curses. Burnt offerings represented unreserved dedication to G-d. The peace offerings expressed thanks to G-d for good health, salvation, and deliverance. These were times of rejoicing where the entire family and invited guests shared in the meal offered from part of the sacrifice. The peace offerings included aspects of Israel’s history that are yet to be completely fulfilled; salvation and deliverance. Although they had been delivered from Egypt, the historical significance is only a part of the complete story of Israel. Salvation and complete deliverance are yet to come, infusing this parashah with a dynamic and contemporary application for today. The peace offering at Mount Ebal was unprecedented as the first made in the promised land. This was the same place where Abraham placed his first altar in Canaan (Gen.12:6-7). That this location was kin the center of Canaan was a reminder that they were actually in the promised land. Total commitment, dedication, thanksgiving, and rejoicing were the attribute s of the Israelite assembled at Mount Ebal under Joshua’s leadership. True Israelites(believers) today should strive to develop these same attributes as we serve G-d in exile.
The tribes were divided into two groups for the reading of the blessings and curses. Six tribes were located in the north, and six in the south on either side of the priests and Levites. The division of the two groups were as follows: Six of the tribes descending from Jacob’s wives Leah and Rachel-Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin- were gathered on the slopes of Mount Gerizim responding to the blessings. The remaining tribes-Gad, Asher, Dan, and Naphtali were the descendants of the handmaids of Leah and Rachel, the tribe of Zebulon, the youngest son of Leah; and the tribe of Reuben, who forfeited the birthright by the sin of incest (Gen.49:4)- were assembled on the slopes of Mount Ebal corresponding to the curses. The name Ebal translates as “heap of barrenness” and the etymology of the word comes from the verb (‘awa) which means to bend or twist. Gerizim is a bit more difficult to translate. The etymology would indicate that it means “cutters or hatchets.” It may also be named for the Gerizites who were a tribe that lived in the vicinity of the Philistines that, according to the Hebrew Bible, was conquered by David. These mountains stand in the center of Canaan from north to south and from east to west. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges argues that the north face of Gerizim is more fertile than the opposite face of Ebal, which is bare.
The sins of idolatry in all its forms are listed as the first curse and is no doubt the most and common offense that affects mans’ relationship with G-d. G-d is not a product of mans’ imagination or creativity. Rather, G-d is the Creator of man and everything in the universe. There is no allowance or tolerance for idolatry. The final curse in verse 27:26 sums up the crux of the message; “A curse no anyone who does not confirm the words of this Torah by putting them into practice.’ All the people are to say, ‘Amein!’” This is a harsh reality that we must internalize. This warning has eternal ramifications that even if the other sins are avoided, will condemn an individual to eternal separation from G-d. This last curse is perfectly aligns with the admonition at the end of the book of Ecclesiastes which reads: “ here is the final conclusion, now that you have heard everything; fear G-d, and keep his commands; this is what being human is all about. For G-d will bring to judgment everything we do, including every secret, whether good or bad.’ Another related verse is found in Proverbs 28:9; “If a person will not listen to Torah, even his prayer is an abomination.” Our G-d is not tolerant of antinomian thoughts and deeds; neither is He an advocate of “diversity” or “inclusion” defined by contemporary society. Yes, anyone who follows G-d’s Torah may be grafted into the covenants of Israel; Jew, Gentile, fellow travelers and foreigners. But this inclusion requires following the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not whatever god one may choose to follow, or even no god. Furthermore, diversity in G-d’s economy is a given. “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile- Adonai is the same for everyone, rich toward everyone who calls on him, since everyone who calls on the name of Adonai will be delivered.” Notice that there is no separate classification between race, gender, or ethnicity. However, there are exclusions that are very clear in the Old and “New” Testaments: Rev. 22:15 reads “ Outside are the homosexuals, those involved with the occult and with drugs, the sexually immoral, murderers, idol-worshippers, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” This scripture echoes what G-d did to the homosexuals in their encounter with Lot (Gen. 19:1-11) and what He told the Israelites concerning what behaviors they were not to engage in not tolerate in others: Lev. 18:22, 20:13; 1 Cor. 6:9-10). This is not to say if people who engage in such behaviors cannot repent and begin to follow G-d’s instructions, but it does mean that unrepentant behaviors will not be tolerated.
Moshe succinctly announces the curses that will overtake anyone who fails to pay attention to G-d’s instructions. Forsaking G-d or diminishing their wholehearted devotion toward Him is the sin that precipitate G-d’s curse upon them. Every endeavor will fail when G-d sends his curse rather than his blessing, so that they will be left destroyed and few in number. They will be defeated by their enemies and they will become the object of disdain to all the kingdoms of the earth. Beginning at 28:58 we read the stark reality of what our nation is just beginning to experience as a nation that has turned from G-d and refuses to follow his Torah: “ If you will not observe and obey all the words of this Torah that are written in this book, so that you will fear this glorious and awesome name, Adonai your G-d; then Adonai will strike down you and your descendants with extraordinary plagues and sever sicknesses that go on and on. He will bring back upon you all the diseases the Egyptians had, which you were in dread of; and they will cling to you. Not only that, but Adonai will bring upon you all the sicknesses and plagues that are not written in this book of the Torah- until you are destroyed. You will be left few in number, whereas you were once as numerous as the starts in the sky- because you did not pay attention to the voice of Adonai your G-d.” A parallel scripture is found in Revelation 22:18-19 for those who argue that everything in the Old Testament is “for the Jews” or was abrogated with Yahshua’s crucifixion; I warn everyone hearing the words of the prophecy in this book that if anyone adds to them, G-d will add to him the plagues written in this book. And if anyone takes anything away from the words in the book of this prophecy, G-d will take away his share in the tree of Life and the holy city, as described in this book.”
We can easily see why we are where we are today based on the aforementioned passages. Deuteronomy 28:63 further describes why we are scattered among the nations just as the Israelites were scattered during the time of Solomon. In the United States and the world, the majority serve other gods, and some acknowledge no deity in any form other than man himself. People are afraid of their shadows and gated communities are now more like prisons. Anxiety, depression, and suicide are on the rise because many people do not know G-d and they do not find peace in astrology, medications, self-help lines, or psychic mediums. The market for guns has exploded as people fear for their lives and property. Various diseases known in Egypt have returned. Diabetes, of which was mentioned in 1552 BCE in a 3rd Dynasty Egyptian papyrus as the earliest known recorded was indeed a disease of Egypt. Hypertension is common among Egyptians with 50% of Egyptians suffering from this disease. These are just two known diseases of Egypt recorded to substantiate what scripture tells us will and is happening as a result of not following G-d’s Torah. A couple of diseases not found in the Torah are the Spanish Flu of 1918, H5N1that first emerged in 1997 in Hong Kong known as the avian virus or bird flu; and most recently COVID-19 as it has spread to affecting people and not just animals. This is not to say that G-d “caused” these diseases and plagues, but that He is allowing them to affect organisms including humans where they may have originally been restricted to other hosts. The ultimate question is why would a G-d of love allow such things to occur? The answer is in this parashah and many other places in G-d’s Torah. The sins of man; individual and collective result in adverse consequences. Deut. 28:15 reads: “ But if you refuse to pay attention to what Adonai your G-d says, and do not observe and obey all his mitzvot [commands], and regulations be manifest because of which I am giving you today, then all the following curses will be your in abundance.” This may be summed up as a global rejection of G-d’s Torah, that is G-d’s Torah/instructions and not the Oral Torah that includes rabbinic law and the traditions of men. I strongly encourage you to read Deuteronomy 28:15-68 as there can be no doubt that G-d provides this warning for disobedience out of His love. When that love is rejected, the result can only be hurt and disaster.
Matthew 24:4-14 provides a summation of what is partially happening now, and what will happen in the near future. The end will not come until the Nations (Goyim) are informed about the Gospel or Good News about the Kingdom of G-d. What will follow is the Exodus from Jerusalem to Petra which is about 120 miles from Jerusalem. G-d will provide for His people at that time and it will be limited for the sake of those who have been chosen (Matthew 24:22). With G-d’s strength, mercy, and provision, we will be able to hold out till the end (Matthew 24:13) no matter where we are at the time. After all, as long as we are alive on this earth, our purpose is to glorify G-d whether as a patient in a hospital, a prisoner, a refugee, or in any other situation G-d choose to place us. There are many things that must occur before the end, but we are closer than ever and must keep oil in our lamps (Matthew 25:13).
Haftarah: Isaiah 60:1-22.
This week’s haftarah is the sixth of a series of seven “Haftarot of Consolation.”
Isaiah recounts descriptions of what will unfold during the Redemption. Beginning with the resurrection of the dead and the ingathering of the exiles, the Jewish people (all true believers) will rejoice. Isaiah speaks of gifts that will be brought to G-d from all the nations of the world. The Jewish nation will no longer be despised and derided, there will no longer be violence or mourning, and G-d will shine His everlasting Light upon His people. This “Light” is of course Yahshua HaMashiach (Rev. 22:5). The bride (all true believers) will be married to her Groom (Yahshua) (Rev. 19:8), and they will live in the Father’s house forever (Psalm 23:6) Amein.
B’rit Chadashah: Romans 11:1-15
Sha’ul (Paul) tells the Messianic community in Rome that G-d has saved out 7,000 people who refused to submit to worship of Baal. This statement reflects back to the reign of Ahab and Jezebel that was one of the most depraved periods of the First Temple era. This couple introduced the worship of the idol Baal into the Kingdom of Israel and established it as the official state religion. We see similar things evolving in our society today. So apparently widespread did this Baal religion become that G-d told the prophet Elijah: But I will leave over in Israel seven thousand people, all the knees that did not kneel to the Baal and every mouth that did not kiss it.” (1 Kings 19:18). This is 7,000 out of several million! This takes us back to the discussion on social justice and the curses. There were only 7,000 people who stood up against the idea of idol worship and refused to tolerate it and give it social sanction. They were forced to go into hiding because of their voluble protest against the social acceptability of the practice. Everyone else silently tolerated it to their own destruction, the destruction of the first Temple, and the removal of the Shekinah from among the people.
Paul reminds us that there is a remnant in the present era chosen by grace for those who are observant out of love to G-d’s commands, laws, statutes, and rulings. The ones chosen have obtained it [grace] but the rest have been made stonelike as the Tanakh says, ‘G-d has given them a spirit of dullness- eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear, right down to the present day.’ Reflecting back to our parashah we are told the same thing: “Nevertheless, to this day Adonai has not given you a heart to understand, eyes to see, or ears to hear! (Deut. 29:3). These statements in the Old and New Testaments validate the truth of G-d’s Torah and the reliability of His Word to the most empirically minded. Unfortunately, many people fall into the aforementioned population and simply cannot see or hear G-d because they are too self-absorbed with their perceived intellect. It is important for us to know that YHVH alone prepares the human heart to receive Him. We must be open to submission to His orders. Matthew 13:15 describes the status of people who are not ready to receive YHVH/Yahshua. People who barely hear and look but do not perceive the truths of YHVH/Yahshua, will subscribe to a misplaced fear that adversities and testing meant for our ultimate good are really some sort of punishment. It all seems a matter of timing as those who grow in their Torah study can attest. Individuals with an honest desire to ascend to G-d are led by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to learn something new every time they read Scripture. It is as if looking at a crystal from different angles in the light. This is because the timing must be right; the Ruach HaKodesh has perfect timing and knows when we are spiritually ready to learn another truth from G-d’s Torah. Our hearts must be prepared before we can understand (see and hear clearly) that which G-d has for us. As we prepare for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, may we make a special effort to prepare ourselves to receive what G-d wants to teach us, that we may obtain full forgiveness from our fellow man and ultimately G-d while there is yet time.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart