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Pomegranates & Our Successes and Blessings

Sunday, 14 September, 2014 - 12:14 am

PomegranateOver the last ten days, the morning pace in my life has changed radically as we leave early to school each morning and fight Greater Boston’s grueling traffic snarls at the begging of the school year. It’s actually not just the commute that has changed, it’s also the new semester of teaching in school, and a busy September preparing for the High Holidays and the launching and restarting of various programs. Bottom line, life is pretty consuming and before we know it, another day has gone by and it’s already the end of another action packed week. Actually it is almost Rosh Hashanah once again and the end of another Jewish year.

The daily pressures of life, consumerism, new Apple IPhones and Watches, our careers and a whole bunch of other things, often leave us feeling consumed and being caught up in a fast raging river of life. It often seems like we are being dragged along by the flow of our work pressures, and unable to truly focus in accomplish our long term ideals, values and spiritual goals.

Despite the new fast paced digital world and never ending new flow of gadgets and information, this problem is not new to 2014. In fact, for thousands of years, people have been grappling and struggling with the workload of life and accomplishing our bigger and perhaps more meaningful goals.

In this week’s Torah Portion, there is a unique Mitzvah that among others was there to help the person stay on top of the momentum of life  and find the mental space to keep the big picture and its spiritual demands and goals in mind. The Torah describes the Mitzvah of Bikkurim, in which farmers of the seven species that Israel was blessed with, would take the first and best fruits of their produce, and bring it to Jerusalem for a gift to the Priests in the Temple.

You hear that, your first and best fruits that you worked so hard all season to produce, you don’t get to eat them, instead you need to bring them to the temple and give them to the priests. There are other Mitzvos that include tithing and giving away to others an even greater portion of one's produce, yet with Bikkurim, the amount was less important, but it being the first and the best was very important.

It would seem like it may have been a hard and Mitzvah to comply with, yet we know that traditionally this Mitzvah was done joyfully, with fanfare and with personal and individual flavor and style. The people knew, that despite it being a little hard, it held a higher purpose at its core and one that made its fulfillment something so special and important. They knew that by giving these fruit to the priests and reciting a declaration of thanks to G-d Almighty, they were making a statement of thanks and tribute to G-d for all their blessings and successes, and reminding themselves of the source of their own successes and accomplishments.

These simple gifts of their first Pomegranates or Grapes to G-d, helped anchor the people giving the gifts with their core mission and purpose in this world. It reminded them to help others, it reminded them to be thankful and appreciative to G-d, and it helped them maintain a forward thinking focus that on the one hand, appreciated their work and successes, yet on the other hand, also kept in mind the bigger picture and the Divine Plan for humanity.

This was not the only Mitzvah that was done with their produce, in fact it was just one of many other Mitzvot associated with their produce, like tithing, charity, gifting to the widows and orphans, and many others. As a collective group, these actions all helped the person stay focused on higher ideals and goals and include the bigger picture in the details of how their lives were lived.  

As we prepare for the final days of the current Jewish Year of 5775 and the Holiday of Rosh Hashanah, this message of this Mitzvah is as important today, if not more important, that it was 3300 years ago when it was first given and practiced. 

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