Monday, August 23, 2010

First Fruits

Parshat Ki Tavo
Dvarim 26:1 – 29:8
18 Elul 5770 / August 28th, 2010

First Fruits
Parsha Ki Tavo opens with God continuing his instructions of what the Israelites should do when they enter the Promised Land:

“And it will be, when you come into the land which the Lord, your God, gives you for an inheritance, and you possess it and settle in it, that you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you will bring from your land, which the Lord, your God, is giving you. And you shall put [them] into a basket and go to the place which the Lord, your God, will choose to have His Name dwell there. And you shall come to the Kohen who will be [serving] in those days, and say to him, "I declare this day to the Lord, your God, that I have come to the land which the Lord swore to our forefathers to give us."

For years, the Israelites had been longing to enter the land of Israel, a land that had been promised to them. However, even though the land is spoken of as if it is inextricably theirs – promised to them by God – the first fruits of its yield are not to be enjoyed by the Israelites. Rather, they are to be brought to the temple and made as a sacrifice for God.

The thought of not reaping the first benefits of a new possession, inheritance, or action – but rather setting them aside as an offering to God – is a lesson that need not be relegated to a distant moment in Jewish history when our people first entered the land of Israel. Each day we are given gifts, we acquire possessions, we have new experiences. While they may be small in relationship to the entrance of a people into their homeland, each of these moments can, too, be an opportunity to acknowledge that what may seem ours by birthright or acquisition is actually a part of a broader creation, of which we are only temporary stewards.

The act of bringing the first fruits from a new land to the Temple was a way of sanctifying the land. Judaism provides us a vehicle for continuing to transform the mundane to the holy, if only we maintain the intentionality to acknowledge that there is Godliness in everything.

Benjamin Bechtolsheim, Moishe House Silver Spring


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