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You worked hard, why do you have to pay up?

Friday, 7 September, 2012 - 5:17 pm

CareYou work hard, you kill yourself to make a living and then you are told that you have to give up some of your first earnings!

Sounds like I am quoting a speaker from one of the recent conventions? Well actually not quite, in fact I am quoting a unique commandment in this week’s portion which describes the Mitzvah of Bikkurim. This Mitzvah which began with their arrival in the land of Israel, entailed taking some of their first and best fruits and produce that they had grown and delivering them to the Temple in Jerusalem where they were then given to the Kohanim, the priests, as an offering, while reciting a thanksgiving prayer.

But really, why couldn’t the Torah make it a little easier for this farmer, why can’t he himself enjoy the first of his fruits and just save some leftovers to fulfill this Mitzvah? Why does this Mitzvah have to be with the first and the best,  would he still not  be doing the Mitzvah if it was the second best fruit or from the later produce?

Yet perhaps, it is precisely this detail and this method that provided the farmer, his family, and in fact the entire people with a very powerful message as they transitioned from being a spiritual people in the desert to a hard working people in the Land of Israel that would integrate spirituality with real life and its challenges. The Mitzvah of Bikkurim was a unique way of giving thanks and recognition to G-d for past and current blessings to the Jewish people and specifically to give thanks for the produce of that season. By having to give the very first fruits away, it highlighted to the Jew the importance of attributing our success and blessings to G-d and the centrality he should give to G-d in his life as they established themselves as a people in the land . This is not to say that man’s efforts are meaningless or worthless, obviously Judaism requires that we do our best to work hard and succeed, yet at the same time, ultimately we must attribute that very success to G-d’s blessings.  If this Mitzvah were to be fulfilled by giving less than the first best fruits it would fail to convey the same message to the Jew and on how he or she should connect with G-d in his or her day to day life.

Today, we don’t have a Temple in Jerusalem, so we are unable to fulfill this Mitzvah in its proper format.  Yet at the same time, the Mitzvah of Bikkurim teaches us an eternal message as it encourages us to take our finest and best talents, and finds ways to utilize them for the good while imbuing these talents and efforts with our divine mandate and spiritual purpose, of refining and improving the world that we are in.

As we enter the last days of the years and the Political Conventions are behind us, we now have ten final days to reflect on the past year and prepare for the upcoming year. Let’s keep in mind the Mitzvah of Bikkurim and make an awareness of our good talents and capabilities along with a reflection on how to best use these talents in expressing our Jewish self and responsibilities a part of this important process.

With best wishes for a Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yisroel Freeman



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