In this week’s parsha, Parshat Ki Tavo, Moshe continues in his book-long speech to the Israelites on the banks of the Jordan. He gives the instructions for when they arrive in the promised land such as the tithe of the first fruit and the construction of two structures to be built atop Mount Eval: plaster coated rocks engraved with “the Teaching” and an altar of unhewn stone. The bulk of the parsha, however, details instructions for the nation to stand atop two mountains while they hear the blessing they will receive if they follow the laws and the curses for if they don’t. Moshe goes into extreme detail, with gems such as “The skies above your head shall be copper” and “Your carcasses shall become food for all the birds of the sky with none to frighten them off.”
If one pays attention to the exact words of Moshe’s speech, we will notice that Moshe’s instructions are just that - instructions. Due to a petrological (the study of rock formation and composition) miscommunication, Moshe was not allowed to enter the land of Israel, only being allowed a glimpse of it before his death. Thus, clear instructions for life in Israel are necessary because he won’t be the one leading the Jews there.
This begs a question. Why didn’t Moshe just say there would be a blessing and a curse and then leave the exact details to whoever was going to recite it? He didn’t need to tell everyone early. He did it because he cared for the Israelites. He knew that the Israelites faced an uncertain future, so he gave them time to brace themselves. As a senior in high school, I too am on the precipice of a major change in both my place of residence and work, and honestly, I can understand what a relief that would have been. Having a set of principles makes the right path clear, even if it takes someone explaining them in detail. So, as we move from one side of our Jordans to another, let’s hope that some of us have wisdom to share, and that the rest of us are ready to listen.
Gil Slomka, Greater Atlanta Region
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