Monday, August 19, 2013

It’s Mine! Or is It?

Parshat Ki Tavo
D’varim 26:1 – 29:8
18 Elul 5773 / August 23-24, 2013

It’s Mine! Or is It?
by Rebecca Karp, MH East Regional Director

As we are in the thick of the text of Devarim (Deuteronomy), the last book of the Torah, as we push ever closer to the high holidays and begin again, Ki Tavo reminds us of a few key points HaShem made earlier on in our story.

The bulk of the parsha (weekly Torah portion) speaks about our covenant with G~d and how, if we follow the various dictums G~d has laid out for us, we will be supremely blessed. There are details upon details of how those blessings will manifest in our lives, the lives of those closest to us, and so on.

In contrast to this list, albeit in its own right lengthy, there is a far more detailed account of what curses will befall us should we fail to obey and participate in G~d's covenant. The details of the curses that will come upon us outweigh the blessings almost 3:1! Curses that affect mind, body and soul, personal livelihood and community, your family and those under your care.

Now, when I wrote the Dvar Torah I gave at my Bat Mitzvah, on this very parsha, I focused on on those blessings and curses. I spoke about why the curses would be so much more detailed and lengthy than the blessings and I would be happy to debate my thoughts on the matter again.

However, today, I chose to go in a different direction. The first section of this portion reminds us of a commandment that was first mentioned in Shemot (Exodus) 23:19 - the commandment of בכורים/Bikkurim or first fruits. From Ki Tavo, Devarim 26:2 " shall take of the first of every fruit of the ground that you bring in from your Land that HaShem, your G~d, gives you..." and 26:10 "And now, behold! I have brought the first fruit of the ground that You have given me, O HaShem! And you shall lay it before HaShem, your G~d, and you shall prostrate yourself before HaShem, your G~d."

That, to me, is quite remarkable. To think, you have been wandering through the desert for forty years and you have finally reached The Promised Land. The land that G~d has brought us to. The land that we have inherited. And now, you have even spent enough time in that land, working its soil, tilling the earth, watering, waiting, watching, that that earth has born fruit. If that were me, I would be thrilled. Ecstatic, in fact! And when I saw that fruit, say, that delicious cherry tomato or raspberry on the vine, I would pluck it and drop it into my mouth to savor my handiwork. Almost without a second thought. And that, I believe, is exactly the point.

We often work so hard at something, whether it be a professional degree, landing that new, great job, finding a partner and starting a life together, that when we succeed in obtaining that "fruit", we forget to look at our surroundings and offer blessings and thanks for what brought us to that point. That, for me, is the lesson in בכורים/Bikkurim that we can take from this parsha.

As we wind down the days of Elul, a traditional time for stock-taking and review of your deeds and actions over the past year, I hope you are able to look at your first fruits within their larger context. May we all be blessed to bear many first fruits in our lives, and to have the courage and self-awareness to give thanks and offerings for those fruits.


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