Parshat Ki Tavo Summary

Parshat Ki Tavo is the 7th parsha in Sefer Devarim (also known as Deuteronomy).

This parsha is verses Deuteronomy 26:1 – 29:8, or a total of 122 verses.

Here is a brief summary for each aliyah.

Aliyah 1: Deuteronomy 26:1 – 26:11, 11 verses

Our parsha begins with the description of bringing first fruits (Hebrew: bikkurim) to the Temple. The commandment of bikkurim was first mentioned back in Shemot:

Shemot / Exodus 23:19

The best of the first fruits of your ground you will bring to the House of the Lord your God. You shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk.

Now Moses explains to the people (who will soon enter the Land) how to fulfill this commandment.

The Jewish farmer places his first fruits in a basket and brings it to Jerusalem. The verse here implies that any fruit may be presented.

However, according to the Mishna Bikkurim 1:3, the first fruits are only brought from the seven species. These are the grains and fruits that the Land of Israel is praised for. They are listed in Devarim:

Devarim / Deuteronomy 8:8

a land of wheat and barley, vines and figs and pomegranates, a land of oil producing olives and honey,

The farmer brings the basket to the Temple and a priest takes it from him. The farmer then recites several verses, Devarim 26:5 – 10. These verses give a brief summary of Jewish history and the goodness that God has done for His people.

These verses are explained in detail in the Passover Haggadah.

Click here to grab your copy of my free ebook How to Learn Chumash with Rashi.

Aliyah 2: Deuteronomy 26:12 – 26:15, 4 verses

These four verses are about another one of the agricultural commandments. As was explained in Parshat Reeh, the 7-year shemittah cycle has in it two 3-year cycles.

After the end of each 3-year cycle, it’s required to distribute any tithes that have not yet been given out. The person who completes this task then recites verses Deuteronomy 26:13 – 15.

In these verses the person proclaims that he has properly fulfilled the commandment and asks God to bless the Jewish people and their land.

Aliyah 3: Deuteronomy 26:16 – 26:19, 4 verses

Moses urges the Jewish people to fulfill God’s commandments. The important thing is to serve God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Aliyah 4: Deuteronomy 27:1 – 27:10, 10 verses

Moses and the elders urge the people to observe all of God’s commandments.

They are commanded to perform a special ceremony when they enter the Land. On Mount Ebal they are to erect large stones that are coated with plaster. Then they are to inscribe the words of the Torah on those stones.

They are also commanded to build an altar of whole stones. They are to bring offerings on this altar and to rejoice before God.

The fulfillment of this command is recorded in Joshua 8:

Joshua Chapter 8

30 Then Joshua built an altar to the Lord God of Israel on Mount Ebal.
31 As Moses, the servant of the Lord, commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, upon which no (man) has lifted up any iron. And they offered upon it burnt-offerings to the Lord and sacrificed peace-offerings.
32 And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel.

Aliyah 5: Deuteronomy 27:11 – 28:6, 22 verses

Moses also commands the people, after they enter the Land of Israel, to pronounce a series of blessings and curses.

The entire people were to divide into 2 groups of six tribes each.

These tribes were to stand on Mount Gerizim:

  • Simeon
  • Levi
  • Judah
  • Issachar
  • Joesph
  • Benjamin

These six tribes were to stand on Mount Ebal:

  • Reuben
  • Gad
  • Asher
  • Zebulun
  • Dan
  • Naphtali

Verses Deuteronomy 27:15 – 26 contain the text of 12 curses. The elders of the tribe of Levi would proclaim the positive version of one of the curses (that is, a blessing) while facing Mount Gerizim.

Then they would turn to Mount Ebal and proclaim the curse as recorded in the Torah.

The fulfillment of this command is also recorded in Joshua 8:

Joshua Chapter 8

33 And all Israel, and their elders and officers and their judges, stood on this side of the Ark and on that side, before the priests the Levites, the bearers of the Ark of the covenant of the Lord, the stranger as well as the native born, half of them over against Mount Gerizim and half of them over against Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded, to bless the people of Israel first.
34 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the book of the Torah.
35 There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua did not read before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that walked among them.

This reading ends with God’s promise of the blessings that will come on the Jewish people when they observe the Torah.

Aliyah 6: Deuteronomy 28:7 – 28:69, 63 verses

Moses continues to remind the people of the blessings they will receive from God when they observe His Torah. There will be blessings of military victories, material wealth, and financial success.

There will also be spiritual blessings with all of the nations of the world recognizing the Jewish people and God.

Parshat Ki Tavo - Cardo in Jerusalem
The Cardo in Jerusalem. Some restored ruins from the destruction of Jerusalem.

However, everything changes starting with verse 15. We now begin the verses known as the Tochachah or Admonition.

Here are some of things that will befall the Jewish people when they don’t serve God with joy:

  • previously promised blessings are turned into curses
  • physical illness
  • military defeat
  • property is stolen
  • exile
  • famine
  • financial loss
  • degradation and humiliation
  • slavery
  • cannibalism
  • population decimated
  • general lack of peace and calm
  • constant fear

Aliyah 7: Deuteronomy 29:1 – 29:8, 8 verses

After the dire predictions of the the previous reading, Moses reminds the people of all that God has done for them.

God brought them out of Egypt and destroyed Pharaoh and his army. They experienced great miracles while traveling in the wilderness.

However, at the time of those miracles they did not always understand what was happening. But now they should be able to appreciate all that God did for them.

Haftarah Summary

Isaiah 60:1 – 22

This haftarah does not relate directly to the parsha. Rather it is one of the seven haftarahs of consolation that are read after Tisha B’Av. All of these haftarahs are taken from Isaiah.

The prophet speaks of a future time when all the nations of the world will recognize God. They will see the light of the Jewish people and of Jerusalem. This will be the final redemption of the world and it will last forever.

Further Reading

Parshat Ki Tavo contains the second set of Admonitions. The first Tochachah or Admonition is found in Parshat Bechukotai.

A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
Click here to grab your copy of my free ebook How to Learn Chumash with Rashi.