art by Laya Crust
Ki Tavo: Dvarim (Deuteronomy) Ch. 26 – 29 v. 8
Haftarah: Isaiah Chapter 60
The Torah reading of Ki Tavo (“when you enter”) begins with a description of first fruit offerings. When the Israelites crossed the Jordan River and entered the promised land they were commanded to offer first fruits and tithes. However, this parsha is better known for the blessings and curses that are listed later on.
In Ki Tavo Moses tells the people they will cross the Jordan River into Canaan. Once there the twelve tribes would be divided between Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal. The tribes of Simon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin were to stand upon Mount Gerizim to “witness” or hear the blessing. The tribes of Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun,Dan and Naftali were to stand on Mount Ebal to “witness” or hear the curse. The tribe of Levi were to stand in the middle. The Levites would turn towards Mount Gerizim and in a loud voice announce the blessing to which the tribes would answer “Amen”. And then they would turn to Mount Ebal and announce the 12 acts that would make someone cursed, and the tribes would answer “Amen” to each of the twelve curses.
It must have been an amazing sight- hundreds of thousands of people standing on two mountain tops, paying close attention to and answering a tribe of Levites!
In chapter 26 instructions are given for making the special altars. Stones were to be cut without using metal tools. They were to be plastered and have words of the law carved upon them. An altar was set up at Mount Ebal and used for sacrificing peace offerings.
Yoni Lightstone, an Israeli tour guide who was born in Canada, shared some fascinating information with me.
In 1980 the archaeologist Dr. Adam Zertal and his team discovered ancient altars in the Jordan Valley. They had been used for animal sacrifices and were enclosed by stone walls. When seen from above the site looks like a footprint.
Dr. Zertal and his survey team carried on their excavations until 1989. The most famous of the “footprint” sites ( sometimes called sandalim and gilgalim) is on Mount Ebal. Dr. Zertal uncovered the large altar, which was built of unhewn stones. He became convinced that it was the altar described in parshat Ki Tavo and later built by Joshua’s men.
It’s amazing to see these remnants of our history and to be 21st Century witnesses for events recorded in the Torah and in נ״ך (the “writings” of the bible).
Back to the parsha…at the beginning ch.28 we are told, “Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the field”…this is followed by 15 verses of beautiful blessings and the good fortune we will receive by following Gd’s laws and commandments. Let us focus on the blessings and may we continue to be an אור לגוים (a light unto the nations) as referenced in the painting at the top of the page.
And hopefully we won’t suffer the horrible consequences described in the subsequent 54 chapters due to non-compliance!
You can see some of the archaeological “footprint sites” in Yehuda and Shomron. Unfortunately some are in danger of being destroyed because they are largely unprotected. However they can still be viewed.
If you want more information and photographs look up “footprint sites, Israel”. According to Wikipedia, “Israelis wishing to visit the site today must coordinate their activity with COGAT, the Israeli defence ministry unit which manages civilian affairs for Palestinians in the West Bank and liaises with Gaza, since Mount Ebal is located in what is now designated as Area B. In addition, Israeli citizens visiting the area are required to be escorted by IDF soldiers, to ensure their personal safety. The Shomron Regional Council, as of July 2016, was trying to promote the area as a tourist destination.
If you need a tour guide while in Israel check out http://yonitours.com/
Have a Shabbat Shalom,