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Kee Tavo Summaries

Kee Tavo 5779-2019

“Welcoming the Stranger”
(Revised and updated from Kee Tavo 5760-2000)

May a non-Jew who converts to Judaism say the prayer formula stating that G-d has promised “our fathers” to give us the land and the fruits thereof? We are taught that Abraham is the father of not only biological Jews, but of all righteous proselytes. We therefore must welcome the גֵר–ger, the stranger, with abundant love, for we were all once strangers.

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Kee Tavo 5778-2018

“A Wandering Aramean?”

In the beautiful declaration that plays a prominent role in the Bikkurim ceremony, there is an ambiguous reference to “a Wandering Aramean.”

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Kee Tavo 5777-2017

“The Choice Parts to G-d”

From the Bikkurim, the gift of the first-born fruits brought to the Temple, we learn that everything done for the sake of Heaven needs to be done in the most beautiful and elegant manner.

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Kee Tavo 5776-2016

“The Power of the Word אָמֵן–‘Amen’”

The common Hebrew word אָמֵן–“Amen,” has a long and colorful history. Its importance cannot be overstated.

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Kee Tavo 5775-2015

“Making The Final Commitment”

While encouraging the People of Israel to make the final commitment to the Al-mighty, Moses conveyed an important message to the people that is still relevant in our time, and can prove useful in our own lives.

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Kee Tavo 5774-2014

“Finding Respite”

After the horrors of the Holocaust were made public, many Jews were under the impression that with the establishment of the State of Israel, its miraculous rebirth and development, the perfidious scourge of anti-Semitism would somehow abate and eventually vanish. For a while there was, what seemed to be, a universal sensitivity. But, only sixty years later, that sensitivity has vanished, and there is now a virulent outbreak of anti-Semitism in countless countries throughout the world, even on the streets of New York and Los Angeles.

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Kee Tavo 5773-2013

“Not Rushing to Judgment”

There are usually two sides to every story. We must always listen to, and carefully analyze, both sides, before jumping to what may be incorrect conclusions.

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Kee Tavo 5772-2012

“Persecution’s ‘Silver Lining’”

In G-d’s reproof of the Jewish people, He declares that even in exile the people will not find rest for the soles of their feet. Can persecution actually prove to be a blessing in disguise?

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Kee Tavo 5771-2011

“The Challenge of Bountifulness”

Before threatening the people of Israel with the dire consequences of sin, G-d always blesses them with blessings that will accrue to the nation for faithfully fulfilling His commandments. Is the blessing of abundance truly a blessing, or is intended to be a challenge?

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Kee Tavo 5770-2010

“Secret Transgressions”

How does a Jew become not only an “observant” Jew, but a Jew who observes with integrity? The twelve opening admonitions of the Tochacha hope to set the Jewish people on the right track.

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Kee Tavo 5769-2009

“Stretch Those Face Muscles!”

When the first fruits were harvested, they were brought by the farmers to Jerusalem with great fanfare and celebration. The Bikurim ritual teaches us a fundamental life principle of expressing gratitude and joy for the gifts that G-d bestows upon us. How unfortunate it is that so many who live in this most prosperous of times, have lost the ability to smile, to feel happy and to express proper gratitude for all the goodness in our lives.

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Kee Tavo 5768-2008

“Redeeming Captives”

One of the truly haunting verses of the Torah that we encounter in Parashat Kee Tavo is the prediction that our sons and daughters will not be ours, for they will be led into captivity. The mitzvah of “Pidyon Sh’vuyim,” redemption of captives, is one of the highest mitzvot in the hierarchy of biblical commandments. Redeeming our contemporary “captives” must be the call of the hour.

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Kee Tavo 5767-2007

“Can the Promise of G-d Keep the People Holy?”

Before delivering the admonition, Moses conveys the blessings of G-d to the Jewish people, including the blessing that G-d will establish His people to be a holy nation to Him. The Haamek Davar sees these words as G-d’s promise to protect those who are faithful to Him, even though they may be involved in mundane communal affairs. Is this blessing a foolproof guarantee?

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Kee Tavo 5766-2006

“Respect for the Person and the Office”

In the ceremony of the bringing of the Bikurim, the first fruits, the Torah tells us that the farmer shall come to the Priest who “shall be in those days.” From these added words, the rabbis learn that we must treat the contemporary Priest with great respect, even though he may not measure up to the standards of the Priests of old. The Torah teaches us to respect not only the person of the Priest, but the office of the Priesthood as well. It is an important message for contemporary America, with many ramifications concerning the future of our country.

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Kee Tavo 5765-2005

“Contemporary Implications of an Ancient Ritual”

In this week’s parasha, we read of the formula of confession that the Israelite farmer of old recited when he redeemed his tithes, declaring that he hasn’t given in grief, impurely, or to the dead. While the vast majority of Jews no longer work as farmers, the statement recited by the ancient Israelites is relevant today to those who wish to properly redeem their charity tithes. There is much that may be learned from this ancient ritual.

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Kee Tavo 5764-2004

“The Centrality of Joy in Jewish Observance”

Parashat Kee Tavo is one of the two parashiot in the Torah that features the terrifying prophecies known as the “Tochacha“–G-d’s reproof of the Jewish people for not following His Torah. The Tochacha predicts that the Jewish people will bear sons and daughters who will not be theirs. It warns that these children will go into captivity because, “You failed to serve the Lord, your G-d, amid gladness of heart, when everything was abundant.” More than anything else, what is needed in Jewish life today to help stem the horrific losses from assimilation is the transferal of the inherent joy in Judaism and an emphasis on how the very process of seeking G-d is a source of great pleasure.

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Kee Tavo 5763-2003

“Watch Out for Laban, He is More Dangerous Than Pharaoh”

As part of the Bikkurim declaration, the celebrants stated that “An Aramean tried to destroy my father.” The Torah thus sees the Aramean, Laban, as more dangerous than Pharaoh. The fact that Pharaoh wants to do us in is well known, so we can protect ourselves. Our brother Laban, however, the wily Aramean, is always out there waiting for us, feigning love, conspiring to defeat us. We need always be on watch for him.

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Kee Tavo 5762-2002

“A Contemporary Interpretation of an Ancient Reproof”

As we read the “Tochacha,” the reproof of the people of Israel for their sins in parashat Kee Tavo, it is impossible not to see the evils of contemporary society predicted and fulfilled. G-d begs us to choose life. If we indeed choose life, the tragic predictions of the Torah should never occur. In fact, we can forestall almost all evil by properly educating ourselves and our children to conduct our lives properly, fulfilling our responsibilities to others and to the environment with genuine loving kindness.

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Kee Tavo 5761-2001

“There are Stones with Human Hearts”

In parashat Kee Tavo, Moses transmits to the Jewish people some of the specific laws and rituals that apply once the people enter the land of Israel. He instructs the elders that, on the day they cross the Jordan to enter into Israel, the people must set up 12 great stones, cover them with plaster and write upon them all the words of this law. Tradition thus explicitly teaches us that Jewish memorials must incorporate Torah. Houses of study and yeshivot that train a new generation of Jews are thus the most appropriate memorials. Only in this manner will our enemies never be able to defeat us.

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Kee Tavo 5760-2000

“Welcoming the Stranger”

May a non-Jew who converts to Judaism say the prayer formula that states that G-d has promised “our fathers” to give us the land and the fruits thereof? We are taught that Abraham is the father, not only of biological Jews but of all righteous proselytes. We therefore must welcome the ger, the stranger, with abundant love, for we were all once strangers.

Link to full version