Parshat Ki-Tavo

(To prepare for this shiur,
see the questions for self study.)

Saying 'thank-you'. Ask any mother - it's not enough to 'think' it - a child has to say it. For some reason, a verbal declaration, be it of gratitude or regret, is very significant for the person who 'hears' it, but even more so for the person who 'declares' it.

In Parshat Ki-Tavo, we find two such examples of obligatory declarations - and precisely where Moshe Rabeinu's main speech (which we've been following in just about every shiur these last few weeks) reaches its conclusion!

In this week's shiur, in our study of the concluding section of the 'main speech', we attempt to explain why.

As usual, we must begin our shiur with a quick review of the three basic components of Moshe Rabeinu's main speech:
Introduction - the events at Ma'amad Har Sinai (chap. 5)
The mitzvah section - (chapters 6-11)
The chukim u'mishpatim section - (chapters 12-26)

[See board #1]

In the past three shiurim we have been following the progression of the mitzvot in the chukim u'mishpatim section. Recall how this section began (in Parshat Re'ay) with the commandment to establish the National Center at ha'makom asher yivchar Hashem, continued in Parshat Shoftim with mitzvot relating to national leadership and laws concerning war (and murder), followed by a wide variety of civil laws (i.e. "mitzvot bein adam l'chaveiro") in Parshat Ki-Teyze (see board #2).

Now, in Parshat Ki-Tavo, we find:
A) Two final mitzvot which form the conclusion of the chukim & mishpatim section;
B) Moshe Rabeinu's concluding remarks (26:16-19);
C) The commandment to perform a special ceremony on Har Eival;
D) The "Tochacha".

Taking this background into consideration, our shiur will consist of three 'mini-shiurim' which discuss these four topics.

Part I: The Two Last Mitzvot of the Main Speech
Before we begin, review the opening psukim of chapter 27, noting how they are written in third person, and hence form the beginning of a new section. Then, working backwards, note how 26:16-19 form the concluding remarks of the 'main speech', and finally, how 26:1-15 (the opening section of Parshat Ki-Tavo) contains two mitzvot:
1) Mikra bikurim (26:1-11)
A special declaration made when one presents his first fruits.
2) Viduy ma'aser (26:12-15)
A special declaration which must be said at the conclusion of the year in which "maaser sheni" [the second 10% tithe] is given to the poor (i.e. once every three years).

[See board #3]

Now we must explain why specifically these two mitzvot were chosen to conclude the chukim & mishpatim section of the main speech.

Where They 'Really' Belong!
When considering the overall structure of the chukim & mishpatim section (as explained in the review above), it appears that both of these two mitzvot should have been recorded in Parshat Re'ay. Let's explain why.

Recall that the primary topic of Parshat Re'ay was ha'makom asher yivchar Hashem. Clearly, the mitzvah of mikra bikurim should have been included together with the other mitzvot relating to this topic for the Torah tells us explicitly that mikra bikurim must be recited ba'makom asher yivchar Hashem (see 26:2-3)! [See board #4].

[In fact, if we compare this to the pattern set in Parshat Mishpatim (see Shmot 23:14-19, especially 23:19), then the mitzvah of mikra bikurim should have been recorded in chapter 16, together with (or immediately after) the laws of Shalosh Regalim (compare Devarim 16:9-12 with Shmot 23:14-19).]

In a similar manner, the mitzvah of viduy ma'aser certainly should have been recorded in Parshat Re'ay as well. Considering that all of the other laws of "ma'aser sheni" are first introduced in Parshat Re'ay (see 14:22-29), the Torah should have included the laws of viduy ma'aser in that same section.

However, for some reason, Sefer Devarim prefers to take these mitzvot from Parshat Re'ay and saves them for the finale of the entire speech.

Matching Bookends
One could suggest that the location of these mitzvot at the conclusion of the speech creates a chiastic type structure. In other words, the mitzvot of ha'makom asher yivchar Hashem serve as 'bookends' for the entire chukim u'mishpatim section (chapters 12-26), for it begins and ends with mitzvot that discuss this theme (see board #5).

[In a similar manner we explained previously that the parshiot of shma and V'haya im shmo'ah serve as 'bookends' for the mitzvah section of the main speech (i.e. chapters 6-11), in order to emphasize its overall theme of "ahavat Hashem" (see shiur on Parshat V'etchanan) (see board #6).]

However, we must still explain why specifically these two mitzvot - mikra bikurim and viduy ma'aser - are chosen (over the others) to form this closing 'bookend'.

One could suggest that these two mitzvot are chosen for they each include a declaration in which we thank God for giving us the land!
1) Mikra bikurim
"You shall then recite: ...and God brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey, therefore I now bring my first fruits of the soil which You have given me." (26:9-10)
2) Viduy ma'aser
"When you set a side your ma'aser... you shall declare before Hashem: I have [fulfilled all of my obligations]... Look down from heaven and bless Your people Israel and the soil You have given us, a land flowing with milk and honey, as you swore to our fathers." (26:12-15)

Note that in both declarations not only do we thank God for the Land, but we also recall His covenant with the Avot. [In viduy ma'aser this is explicit (see 26:15). In mikra bikurim this is implicit, for it clearly relates back to Brit Bein Ha'btarim.]
[See a more complete explanation in the Further Iyun Section.]

The Torah's choice of these two mitzvot fits nicely with primary theme of the main speech as well. Recall from 5:28 & 6:1 that the primary purpose of the main speech was to teach Bnei Yisrael the various laws which they must keep when they enter the land:

"And this is the mitzvah, chukim u'mishpatim that God has commanded me to impart to you, to be observed in the land that you are about to enter and conquer..." (6:1)

[See also 5:28 and our introductory shiur.]

As this is the purpose of the speech, it is only appropriate that the final mitzvot include a declaration in which we thank God for the land which He has given us! (See board #7). In fact, if we look at the mitzvah of mikra bikurim carefully (read 26:3-8 once again), we are not thanking God for our fruits, rather, we are 'using' our first fruits in order to thank God for the land!

[This may also explain why we quote mikra bikurim in the Haggada of Pesach to fulfill our obligation to retell the story of Yetziat Mitzraim and thank God for His fulfillment of Brit Bein Ha'Btarim. Since the primary purpose of this mitzvah is to thank God for fulfilling His covenant, then the same declaration is appropriate for magid as well, for that section, we thank God for His fulfillment of Brit Bein Ha'Btarim. (See Shmot 13:8/ compare Devarim 26:3, in regard to the use of "v'higad'ti" in both!)]

This interpretation also helps us understand why each of these two declarations relate to God's covenant with the Avot concerning the Promised Land. By recalling that covenant, not only do we thank God for fulfilling His promise to our forefathers, we also remind ourselves of the reason why he gave us the land, i.e. to become a great nation which will represent Him. [See Breishit 12:1-3 and shiur on Parshat Lech Lcha.]

As such, these declarations are significant for they emphasize the reason for keeping all of the mitzvot of the main speech in Sefer Devarim, i.e. to help Bnei Yisrael become an "am kadosh" (a holy nation), a model for all nations to follow. [See Devarim 4:5-8.]

Part II: The Finale - Moshe's Concluding Remarks
This same theme continues in Moshe Rabeinu's concluding remarks of the main speech (which follow these two mitzvot):

"On this day, God commands you to observe these chukim u'mishpatim... God has affirmed this day that you are His "am segula" (treasured nation) and He will set you high above all nations that you shall be, as He promised, an "am kadosh" (a holy nation)..." (see 26:16-19)

Moshe concludes the main speech by reiterating the primary purpose for keeping these mitzvot - in order that Am Yisrael become an am kadosh - a holy nation, worthy to represent God.

Back to Har Sinai
Moshe's concluding remarks also include a striking parallel to God's original charge to Bnei Yisrael at Har Sinai. Recall that when Bnei Yisrael first arrive at Har Sinai, God summons Moshe to the mountain and proposes a special covenant with Bnei Yisrael:

"And now, if you will listen to my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall become for Me a "segula" amongst all the nations... and you shall be for me a kingdom of priests and an "am kadosh"..." (Shmot 19:5-6)
This proposal, which actually forms the prelude to the Ten Commandments, explains the primary purpose of Matan Torah - that Am Yisrael become a goy kadosh to represent God.

Now, at the conclusion of the main speech, in which Moshe Rabeinu repeats those mitzvot which were originally given at Har Sinai (immediately after the dibrot - see (introductory shiur), we find this very same theme repeated:

"And God has affirmed this day that you are, as He promised you [at Har Sinai!], His am segula who shall observe all of His commandments, and that He will set you, in fame and renown and glory, high above all the nations that He has made; and that you shall be, as He promised [at Har Sinai!] an am kadosh..." (26:18-19)

[See board #8]

Moshe's concluding remarks are quite appropriate, for the purpose of the mitzvot, which he has just completed teaching Bnei Yisrael, are to help Bnei Yisrael become a segula and an am kadosh; just as He had originally promised them at Har Sinai!

The Proper Balance
Moshe's concluding remarks also beautifully tie together the two main sections of the main speech. Recall that the mitzvah section, whose primary topic is "ahavat Hashem", opened with the commandment to love God - "bchol lvavcha uvchol nafshecha" - with all one's heart and with all one's soul. Now, at the conclusion of the chukim u'mishpatim section, Moshe explains how these two sections relate to each other:

"The Lord your God commands you this day to keep these chukim u'mishpatim; observe them faithfully - "b'chol l'vavcha u'v'chol naf'shecha" - with all your heart and with all your soul..." (26:16)

The numerous specific mitzvot which are recorded in the chukim u'mishpatim section must be kept with the proper attitude, as explained in the mitzvah section (see board #9).

Part III: The Covenant at Arvot Moav and Har Eival
The above thematic and textual parallel to "Ma'amad Har Sinai" at the conclusion of the main speech continues in the parsha which follows immediately afterward:

"Moshe and the elders charged the people, saying: Observe everything that I command you today... for when you cross the Jordan, you must erect large stones and coat them with plaster [in order that] you shall write on them all the words of this Torah [the mitzvot of Sefer Dvarim]... erect these stones on Har Eival... And you shall build there a mizbayach... (note parallel to Shmot 20:22), and you shall offer upon it olot and shlamim..." (Devarim 27:1-8)

Recall how an almost identical ceremony took place some forty years earlier at Ma'amad Har Sinai, immediately after Moshe teaches Bnei Yisrael the laws which God gave him after the Ten Commandments:

"And Moshe came [down from Har Sinai] and told the people all of God's commandments and the mishpatim... Moshe then wrote down all of God's commandments. Then, he woke up early in the morning and built a mizbayach at the foot of the mountain and erected twelve large stones... and they offered olot and shlamim..." (Shmot 24:3-8)

Likewise, there is a "tochacha" which is to be read at that ceremony (see Devarim 27:11-28:69) on Har Eival, just as there was a "tochacha" which was read at Har Sinai (Vayikra 26:3-46, see also 25:1).

Thus, this ceremony which Bnei Yisrael must perform on Har Eival, which includes writing down and teaching the mitzvot of Sefer Devarim, building a mizbayach, and offering olot and shlamim, parallels the covenantal ceremony which took place at Ma'amad Har Sinai when Bnei Yisrael proclaimed "na'aseh v'nishma" (see Shmot 24:3-11).

The reason for this parallel is quite simple: Because this generation (which is about to enter the Land and fulfill these mitzvot) was not present at the original ceremony, a new ceremony is required in which the new generation can re-affirm their commitment to their covenant with God.

This ceremony will take place on Har Eival, where Bnei Yisrael will 're-live' the experience of Har Sinai by studying the mitzvot of Sefer Devarim which will guide them as they establish their new nation.

It is not often in our history that one generation is given an opportunity to fulfill a destiny which was originally planned for an earlier generation. Aware of this potential, Moshe encourages the new generation in the desert to rise to the challenge of setting up an am kadosh in the Promised Land, as God had originally planned for the generation of their parents.

Although this challenge by Moshe Rabeinu to Am Yisrael is some three thousand years old, it takes on additional significance today, as our own generation has been given the potential to fulfill this very same destiny.

Virtual ClassRoom enhancements by Ronni Libson.

For Further Iyun
A. Carefully compare the declaration in mikra bikurim to God's covenant with Avraham Avinu at Brit Bein Ha'Btarim" (Breishit chapter 15), the original covenant which God made with him which includes God's promise of the Land to his offspring.

See especially Breishit 15:7-21. Relate also to Dvarim 1:7-11! - Moshe's opening remarks in his introductory speech. Note the use of the word "yerusha" and/or shoresh in both. Note also "v'rishta" in 26:1!

Finally, note the historical process described in Breishit 15:13-16, and how it relates to 26:5-8.

B. Note in Sefer Yehoshua (4:1-10), how many stones are taken from the Yarden. What is done with these stones?

How does this relate to Shmot 24:3-10?

See Yehoshua 8:30-35. Is this the fulfillment of the mitzvah in Devarim 27:1-11? Why is this mitzvah only performed after the battle against Ha'Ai?

What other parallels are there in Sefer Yehoshua to the generation of Yetziat Mitzraim?

Relate especially to chapters 3 & 5 in Sefer Yehoshua!

C. Note on methodology: In our series on Parshat ha'shavuah we have seen numerous examples of how a specific parsha can be better understood by studying not only its content but also its location within the framework of an entire Sefer. Use the above shiur on Parshat Ki-Tavo to support this approach.

D. Regarding the importance in making a verbal declaration, see Rashbam on 26:13.

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