November 18, 2018

Rosner’s Torah Talk: Parshat Ki Tavo with Rabbi Abby Jacobson

Rabbi Abby Jacobson received her rabbinic ordination, along with a Master’s degree in Hebrew Letters, from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York City, in 2009. Rabbi Jacobson has been a proud member of the Emanuel Synagogue in Oklahoma City since August 1, 2009. She is also the current president (and long-time board member) of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma.

This week’s Torah Portion – Parashat Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8) – begins with Moses instructing the people of Israel to bring the first fruit they reap in the holy land to the Holy Temple in gratitude to God. The portion continues to state the laws concerning tithes given to the Levites and to the poor. Moses then gives the children of Israel instructions on the blessings and curses they must say at Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal (the “Mount of the Blessing” and the “Mount of the Curse”). At the end of the portion, Moses gives lists of good and bad things that will happen to the people of Israel if they follow or stray from the Torah. Our discussion will focus on the pasuk “Arami Oved Avi” (My father was a wandering Aramean) and on its role in forming a historically conscious people and national identity.

Previous Talks on Ki Tavo

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Rabbi Serge Lippe

Rabbi Paul Lewin

Rabbi David Fine

Rabbi Michael Ragozin



A Portion of Parshat Ki Tavo

Very soon, the people of Israel will step across the border of the Promised Land. It is a land of abundance, full of fruits and crops. It is a land in which the rain falls at the right time and in the right amount. It is a land with mountains and deserts, rivers and oceans.

What is the first thing the people of Israel must do when they enter the land? Give it away. In this portion, they are told that they must put all their first fruits in a teneh (basket) and bring it to the Temple. This must happen every year, during the festival of Shavuot, and it is a symbol of the people of Israel’s gratitude for the abundance they have been given. In this portion they are also told they must set aside 10 percent of all their crops for the stranger, the orphan and the widow.

Have you ever opened your lunch box and found a whole bag of Oreos? Probably not. But imagine you did. You would probably give away half the bag to your friends. When you feel blessed with great abundance, it is easy to give part of it away. Here is a good morning practice: When you wake up, think of all the wonderful things in your life — your parents, your comfy bed, your bike, your freezer full of Go-Gurts. Then put a dime in your tzedakah box, or give money to your local charity at school.