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Torah Commentary Blog

Parashat Ki Tavo (September 13, 2014)
by Warren Klein

PARASHAT KI TAVO IS all about blessing and curses. More specifically, if you do not follow God’s commandments you will be cursed, and if you do follow God’s commandments you will be blessed. Seems pretty straightforward to me. One of the things I found interesting about this parashah was the rhythm of the text, how after laying out the commandments for the tithe and the instructions for the building of an alter, there is a list in Chapter 27 about who is cursed: from he who insults his father or mother (verse 16) to he who strikes down his fellow countryman in secret (verse 24). This is followed by Chapter 28 in which various blessings are laid out if one follows God’s commandments, such as blessed shall you be in the city (verse 3) to the Lord will make you the head not the tail (verse 13). This then is preceded by a list of curses echoing the blessings: Cursed shall you be in the country (verse 16) to a far worse curse of your carcasses shall become food for the birds (verse 25). Why then is the pattern curses, blessings, curses? Is this to emphasize God’s wrath? Or rather, is it to heighten the sensation of potential blessings?

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