Parashat Ki Tavo-- Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8
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Questions for Young Children
• Why do you think the Israelites thank God as soon as they enter Eretz Yisrael?
• How will life be different for B’nei Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael than in the desert?

Questions for Older Children
• When you read 26: 8-8, does it remind you of the words we use on a holiday? Which holiday?
• When the Israelites cross the Jordan River, they are to be part of a very strange ceremony that takes place on two hills. What’s the ceremony and why do you think Moshe decreed it?
• Which curse do you think is the worst? Which curse would you think is the worst if you had just entered the Land of Israel after years of wandering in the desert?

Questions for Teens and Adults
• This parasha opens with a ceremony that Israelite farmers in Eretz Yisrael followed to thank God for their first fruits. Like some other Torah laws, we cannot perform this mitzvah in the Diaspora. Read through the ceremony and the reasons for the ceremony. Is there any ritual your family already performs or could create that would serve a similar purpose?
• What do you think is the rationale for the ceremony on Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal and why do you think the tribes are divided as they are?
• Would the list of curses make you fearful? Which curse do you think is the worst? 

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This parasha opens with the prescribed prayer farmers are to recite to God as they deliver their basket of first fruits. A second declaration accompanies the tithe. B'nei Yisrael are further commanded to write down the Torah on stones and build an altar avoiding the use of iron tools in the process. Moshe then commands which tribes will stand on Mt. Gerizim when the blessing is recited and which shall stand on Mt. Ebal when the curses are recited. We all know there are Ten Commandments, but we may be less aware that there were twelve curses. Following the curses, the Torah recounts the blessings that Israel will receive if they follow God’s commandments. Fittingly, the parasha concludes with a command to “observe faithfully all the terms of this covenant that you may succeed in all that you undertake.”

Find the Food an Artistic Connection...

וְלָקַחְתָּ מֵרֵאשִׁית כָּל-פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר תָּבִיא מֵאַרְצְךָ אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ--וְשַׂמְתָּ בַטֶּנֶא; וְהָלַכְתָּ, אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם, אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, לְשַׁכֵּן שְׁמוֹ שָׁם

You shall take some of every first fruit of the soil which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, put it in a basket and go to the place where the Lord your God will choose to establish His name.
-- Deuteronomy 26:2


--A basket of apples!

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The parasha begins with a command to present a basket of first fruits to the kohen and offer an acknowledgment that God has kept His covenant to bring the Israelites into Eretz Yisrael. The acknowledgment is made in the first person. Instead of cooking a special food, try preparing a centerpiece that reminds your guests of the verse. You can prepare a basket stacked high with first fruits of the season. At this time in Minnesota that means apples like Zestars, but you may find other produce if you scour the Farmers Market and talk to the farmers.

The Side Dish
Every country has its unique produce and Eretz Yisrael is no exception. Imagine having spent forty years in the desert where you ate the same thing (manna) every day.  Then you entering Eretz Yisrael, a land with a wide selection of fruits and vegetables and grains. We're used to seeing overflowing bins in the grocery stores or tables heaped with produce at farmers’ markets, but it’s not the case everywhere. When my sister and I researched our book about two young women born in the Soviet Union in the late 1950s, a constant theme was the lack of food—especially fruits and vegetables. To see an orange, to eat a banana was to enter a new world. You may have heard similar tales from immigrant grandparents like our grandfather who thought he should eat the entire banana (including the peel) the first time he saw the strange fruit in New York City after his arrival from the Pale.  If you have traveled to Asia, you've probably encountered new fruits and vegetables and puzzled over how to eat them and how they should taste.

One of the great pleasures of being in Eretz Yisrael is going to the market, the shuk, and listening to the sellers tout their produce. It’s a feast for eyes and mouth together. Is there a fruit or vegetable you enjoy in Israel that has no peer elsewhere in the world? Israel is a land of milk and honey—and so much more!

 

 

 

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A Dash of Torah Cantillation
If you enter the synagogue during the reading from Deuteronomy 27:15ff, you might think the microphone isn’t working or your hearing has suddenly deteriorated. But, all is well. The curses are traditionally chanted in an undertone.

Another Dash of Curses
If you want to read even more curses, check Nehemiah 5:13, Judges 21:18, and Samuel 14:24. Note that almost all the actions that are subjected to these curses can be done in private without the knowledge of others. The curses serve as a dire reminder of the consequence of disobeying God even when no person can bear witness to the sin.

A Dash of Hebrew
Many of you may know sal is the Hebrew word for “basket.” Basketball is kadur-sal in Hebrew. In this parasha, the word teneh is used for basket. It’s borrowed from the Egyptian word for the kind of basket that was used in Egypt to hold fruit and corn. If you want to buy a basket in Israel, stick to the more familiar word, sal.

A Dash of Artistic Expression
For those of you who don’t enjoy cooking or don’t need extra recipes, you can focus each week exclusively on crafts for a centerpiece. If you have children or grandchildren who enjoy working with their hands, it will be a pleasure to figure out how to create a work of art connected to the parasha to use as a centerpiece.

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Although I am not suggesting a recipe for this week connected to Ki Tavo, here's my mom's honey cake recipe for those of you ready to bake for Rosh haShanah. The hives in photograph are positioned among Minnesota prairie flowers and produce a light honey.  This is a good time of year to sample varieties of honey in your area and see which you enjoy the most. For this cake my preference is buckwheat honey for a robust taste that balances the spices.  

Mom's Honey Cake 

Pareve--Makes 2 loaf cakes

Ingredientsrsz beehives copy
Group I

  • 3 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cup honey
  • ½ cup oil

Group II

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • ½ tsp each: ginger, cloves, allspice
  • 2 Tbsp. cinnamon

Not part of either group

  • 1 cup warm, strong coffee
  • 1 cup walnuts

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350º and prepare two standard loaf pans by greasing and flouring them or lining them with foil.
  2. Mix group I together. Add Group II to Group I alternately with the coffee.
  3. Pour into the two loaf prepared loaf pans.
  4. Sprinkle ½ cup walnuts on top of each loaf and bake @ 350º 40 min.

These honey cakes freeze well.  

 

 

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