Ki Tavo

In his Ode for Music, Thomas Gray (1716-1771) once wrote: “Sweet is the breath of vernal shower,/The bee’s collected treasures sweet,/Sweet music’s melting fall, but sweeter yet/The still small voice of gratitude.” Cultivating the attitude of gratitude can oftentimes be challenging, especially when it tends to reside in the still small voices of our most inner selves. How do we access and then embody a life of thankfulness beyond the still small voice of gratitude? It is this sweetest music that Moses is in the process of teaching the Children of Israel through his own song in Deuteronomy, especially, how to cultivate the proper attitude for entering the Holy Land; after all it is being given as an eternal heritage. In settling and cultivating the land, the ritual of offering first ripened fruits or bikkurim at the Jerusalem Temple is a key moment in the agrarian lifecycle—here is a chance to proclaim one’s gratitude in community. Gratitude is often learned through our relation to others; thus tithing to the Levites and the needy are opportunities to cultivate gratitude. Sometimes we must see need in our midst to really appreciate the abundant blessings of our lives. There is follow up here to the episode of blessings and curses that began its articulation in last week’s reading. Moses comments on the development of the Israelites, from their birth as a nation, which does not necessarily lead to the maturity exemplified by “a mind to understand, or eyes to see, or ears to hear.” (29:3) Growth does not always lead to development, and this desert generation is still engaged in an ongoing process of maturing, amidst innumerable challenges on the journey thus far.