“Every traveller has a home of his own,and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.” ― Charles Dickens
It has been a long and arduous history for the Jewish people. There have been few places on this earth that we have not lived, languages we have not spoken and cultures that we have not absorbed into our psyche. The Jew has come to be known as a wanderer, albeit with an extraordinary lifespan.
Mark Twain famously wrote:
‘Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of; but he is heard of, has always been heard of’.
It would be remarkable if the Jewish people had survived over the last two-thousand years while residing upon their own soil, the small strip of land in the Middle East that lies at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. Instead, they were exiled and scattered to all ends of the globe, and persecuted with horrors. On occasion when the Jew was welcomed, it was an exception to an otherwise international rule of rejection and disdain.
After all this, if there were only one homecoming for us in all of our history, as the one we have experienced in our modern times, it alone would stand as one of the most staggering miracles of the many that have escorted us through our sojourns. But there has been more than one homecoming and each was in some way foretold. The first, was to the founder of our nation Abraham.
You must know that your seed will be sojourners in a land not theirs…But in the fourth generation they will return here. (Gen., 15:16)
That fourth generation did indeed return. And perashat Ki Tabo — meaning literally, ‘When You Arrive’ — teaches us the meaning of such a homecoming. We are commanded in the Torah to take of the land’s produce, bring it before God, and say ‘I have come home’. This is not only a declaration of thanks for the earth’s sustenance, it is also a recognition of a promise kept by God to return us back to our own land.
Now it shall be when you enter the land that God your Lord is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and settle in it, you are to take from the premier fruit of the soil…You are to come to the priest…and say to him: ‘I announce to you today to God your Lord that I have entered the land that God swore to our fathers, to give us’. (26:1-3)
As we read Moshe’s words to those first members of the nation, who were about to cross the Jordan River into sovereignty and freedom, we can imagine their vision of the future. Moshe spoke in blunt and harsh terms, not only of the blessings that their descendants could expect, but of the hardships, persecutions, pogroms, blood libels, and genocide that would cast a terrifying darkness upon the coming generations.
Yes, it would have been astonishing if the nation of Israel had retained sovereignty in their homeland for two millennia. But it is exponentially more astonishing that we survived even as we were burned by the fires of the world. It is inconceivable that we have not only vanquished, but come home again.
The tides of time flow in great and powerful currents across the ages. In perashat Ki Tabo Moshe charges us to focus our attention over the generations on the patterns that emerge. One in particular that we are urged to see is that of the Jewish people’s journey over history.
God…will return to collect you from all the peoples wherein God your Lord has scattered you. If you be thrust away to the ends of the heavens, from there your God will collect you, from there He will take you, and your God will bring you to the land that your forefathers possessed. (30:4-5)
We stand today, the oldest outcast nation in the world, battered, beaten and burned, but at the same time blessed and lifted by the most amazing and unique Divine grace. We stand tall as ever, committed to life in all of its fullness and freedom.
There is a great history of which we are all a part, which calls us to receive the responsibility and pride of our powerful identity. The time has come to wear our crown proudly, speak our names with dignity and honour, and teach our children with joy about our heritage and wisdom. As we sing of our Tikvah – ‘Hope’ of two thousand years, our hearts should stretch across the sea of history and touch those of our forebears, whispering to them: ‘We have come home’.
Rabbi Joseph Dweck
VII Ki Tavo
23a Bikurim and accompanying declaration (26:1-11)
23b Tithes and accompanying declaration (26:12-15)
23c Formulation of covenant (26:16-19)
24a Set up Torah inscribed stones on crossing Jordan river (27:1-8)
24b A nation is born (27:9-10)
24c Manner of blessing and cursing (27:11-14)
24d Curse 1: Idols in secret (27:15)
24e Curse 2: Shame father or mother (27:16)
24f Curse 3: Remove neighbours landmark (27:17)
24g Curse 4: Make blind go astray (27:18)
24h Curse 5: Perverts justice due to stranger,
orphan, widow (27:19).
Curse 6: Lie with father’s wife (27:20)
24i Curse 7: Lie with any animal (27:21)
24j Curse 8: Lie with sister (27:22)
24k Curse 9: Lie with mother-in-law (27:23)
24l Curse 10: Hit neighbour secretly (27:24)
24m Curse 11: Bribed to kill an innocent (27:25)
24n Curse 12: General disobedience (27:26)
25 Blessings if you listen to God (28:1-14)
26a Curses if you do not – tochecha (28:15-68)
26b Covenant at Moav (28:69)
27 History of Covenant (29:1-8)
Taken from, ‘Torah for Everyone’ by Rabbi Dr Raphael Zarum, Dean of LSJS