Tag Archives: Mount Gerizim

A Blessing and a Curse

Ki Tavoart 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.

Image result for mount ebal and mount Gerizim

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.

Image result for mount ebal footprint altar     Image result for mount ebal footprint altar

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 seeImage result for mount ebal and mount Gerizim 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.[23]

If you need a tour guide while in Israel check out http://yonitours.com/


Have a Shabbat Shalom,



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Ki Tavo

Ki TavoIsaiah chapter 60.

Isaiah (prophet)- c. 740 – 681 BCE 765 B.C.E.

“Arise, shine; for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, the darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples: but the Lord will rise upon you and His glory seen upon you. And nations will walk at your light…”

This is how the Haftarah for Ki Tavo begins.

It is the 6th of the seven Shabbatot of Consolation following Tisha B’Av. Isaiah paints a bright and promising future for the Jews who are still in exile. He tells them that the gates of Jerusalem will be open to them, they will be blessed with light and riches and the other nations will recognize them and be in darkness.

The poetic prose consistently refers to light and that is what I chose as the theme for this week’s painting. The sun and moon are both suspended in the sky and the rays of their light illuminate the dark mountains. This is to indicate that the path of B’nai Yisrael will be illuminated even when the landscape of the rest of the nations is in darkness. The two tall mountains are an acknowledgement of Mount Eval and Mount Gerizim from the parsha.

The imagery of the haftarah also fits very well with the message of the parsha. The themes of light and dark presented in the haftarah echo the rewards and punishments discussed in the parsha.

The parsha begins reminding the Israelites that Yaakov’s children went down to Egypt and became a successful family but then lost everything and were reduced to slaves.

The text continues with an interesting rendition of some of the Commandments. Rather than the “Thou shalt nots…” the language is strengthened to become “Cursed be he who…” followed by “the people shall say Amen.”  The language is stark, reminding b’nei Yisrael that the commandments are to be taken seriously, otherwise there are dark and bleak repercussions.

The next 15 verses are the lovely rewards B’nei Yisrael will reap by following God’s laws followed by 54 hugely frightening verses describing what will happen if the Israelites do not follow the Commandments.

These contrasts laid out in the parsha are echoed in the dark mountainscape of the desert. The light is the positives the Jews gain when following God. The darkness is the abyss the Jews find themselves in when they refuse to live morally and within the Commandments.

The beam of radiance represents the light God shines on b’nei Yisrael- the light mentioned by Isaiah to the desperate, exiled Jews. The Jews benefit from light and clarity while the other nations see Israel’s light. They recognize the “or le Goyim”- or the light unto the nations that Jews can share. The other nations can share in it too if they treat the Jews and the God of the Jews with respect.

The quotation seen at the base of the painting is the phrase I quoted at the beginning of this entry. “Arise, shine; for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you…and His glory shall be seen upon you.”

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