Ki Tavo:Approaching the Sacred With All Our Senses

A terebinth of Mamre.
A terebinth of Mamre.

The portion, “Ki Tavo” (When you enter or go into) begins in Deuteronomy 26.1. When we enter the promised land we are commanded to being “some of every first fruit from the soil, which you harvest from the land..” (26.2). The Hebrew for “first fruits” reads “Me’reisheet col peri” As some have suggested, there is meaning in the use of this word “reisheet” as it harkens back to the very beginning of Genesis and the opening of Torah with the word “B’reisheet” (in the beginning, or when God began). The idea of first fruits, or beginnings come together with this portion and this time of year. Kushner and Olitzky reference the Sefer Emes who reminds us that we end the year (the Holidays now only days away) with a call to bring the first fruits and at those Holidays, we are reminded that it is a time for personal creation, as we celebrate the symbolic birthday of the world. beginnings, it seems, may be a theme of this time of year. This word “me’reisheet” can contain the sense that even as the year ends, the ideal of growth and creation is present.
Likewise, this is an offering to God. The portion contains a series of blessings and curses which provide an outline for how to organize the society that is soon to emerge. And, as the portion ends, there is this wonderful verse that speaks to us today: “And Adoni has not given you a heart to understand, eyes to see, or ears to hear until this day” (29.3) This verse can be read differently. In context, it may seem that despite all the miracles that were provided to the Israelites in their journey, they still have yet to come to God. Now, we can also lift the verse and read it to say that once we come to understand the presence of God in our life, we can understand the blessing of our hearts, our eyes and our ears.
Maybe one way for us to look at this verse and the portion, is to reflect on our own life, and, in anticipation of the New Year and new beginnings, maybe we can count our blessings, as opposed to dwelling on all the things that may not have gone well, and, in doing so, know that those blessings touch our hearts, fill our eyes and bring a joyful celebratory noise to our ears.
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Richard F Address

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