Experiencing the Exodus in All Generations

In order to make the covenant eternal, all Jews must come to understand that they themselves were taken out of slavery in Egypt

 

This week's Torah portion, Ki Tavo, focuses on the reaffirmation of the covenant between God and the Israelites. The Israelite people are told that when they bring the first fruits of the land and the

maasro

(wheat offerings), they are to recite short speeches confirming their relationship to God and the land of Israel (Deuteronomy 26:1-15).

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Next, Moses reminds the Israelites of their unique identity as God's chosen people, and he directs them upon entering the land of Israel to write the words of the Torah on large rocks, which will then be placed on Mount Ayval. The people are then to stand on Mount Gerizim to bless those who keep God's laws and on Mount Ayval to curse those who violate God's commandments. A long list of blessings and a much longer list of curses follow. The portion concludes with Moses explaining to the people that it is only they, the second generation since the Exodus, who have the perspective to fully appreciate the Exodus story.

The covenant, as it is described in Ki Tavo, is not an agreement made in the past. Instead, time collapses so that each member of the Jewish people has seemingly lived through all the formative experiences of the nation. Throughout the generations, each person who brings the offering of the first fruits declares, "The Egyptians treated us badly and afflicted us . . .we called out to God and God heard our voices . . .God took us out of Egypt with a strong hand . . .and brought us to this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And now I have brought the first fruits of the land which God has given me."

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