Parashat Ki Tavo
In this week’s parasha, Parashat Ki Tavo, we find one of the greatest expressions of gratitude in the Torah.
- The first fruits
- The confession that all tithes have been taken
- The ceremony on Mount Gerizim and Mount Eival
- The Tochacha- the rebuke.
First Fruits What Does That Mean?
The farmer appears before the Cohen, with his basket filled with the first fruits of his crop. He hands over the basket of fruit and makes the following declaration: Deut 26:5-11)
וְעָנִ֨יתָ וְאָמַרְתָּ֜ לִפְנֵ֣י ׀ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֗יךָ אֲרַמִּי֙ אֹבֵ֣ד אָבִ֔י וַיֵּ֣רֶד מִצְרַ֔יְמָה וַיָּ֥גָר שָׁ֖ם בִּמְתֵ֣י מְעָ֑ט וַֽיְהִי־שָׁ֕ם לְג֥וֹי גָּד֖וֹל עָצ֥וּם וָרָֽב
You shall then recite as follows before the LORD your God: “My father was a fugitive Aramean. He went down to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there; but there he became a great and very populous nation.
וַיָּרֵ֧עוּ אֹתָ֛נוּ הַמִּצְרִ֖ים וַיְעַנּ֑וּנוּ וַיִּתְּנ֥וּ עָלֵ֖ינוּ עֲבֹדָ֥ה קָשָֽׁה
The Egyptians dealt harshly with us and oppressed us; they imposed heavy labor upon us.
וַנִּצְעַ֕ק אֶל־יְהוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֵ֣י אֲבֹתֵ֑ינוּ וַיִּשְׁמַ֤ע יְהוָה֙ אֶת־קֹלֵ֔נוּ וַיַּ֧רְא אֶת־עָנְיֵ֛נוּ וְאֶת־עֲמָלֵ֖נוּ וְאֶת־לַחֲצֵֽנוּ
We cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our plea and saw our plight, our misery, and our oppression
וַיּוֹצִאֵ֤נוּ יְהוָה֙ מִמִּצְרַ֔יִם בְּיָ֤ד חֲזָקָה֙ וּבִזְרֹ֣עַ נְטוּיָ֔ה וּבְמֹרָ֖א גָּדֹ֑ל וּבְאֹת֖וֹת וּבְמֹפְתִֽים
The LORD freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, and by signs and portents
וַיְבִאֵ֖נוּ אֶל־הַמָּק֣וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה וַיִּתֶּן־לָ֙נוּ֙ אֶת־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַזֹּ֔את אֶ֛רֶץ זָבַ֥ת חָלָ֖ב וּדְבָֽשׁ
He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
וְעַתָּ֗ה הִנֵּ֤ה הֵבֵ֙אתִי֙ אֶת־רֵאשִׁית֙ פְּרִ֣י הָאֲדָמָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־נָתַ֥תָּה לִּ֖י יְהוָ֑ה וְהִנַּחְתּ֗וֹ לִפְנֵי֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ וְהִֽשְׁתַּחֲוִ֔יתָ לִפְנֵ֖י יְהוָ֥ה
Wherefore I now bring the first fruits of the soil which You, O LORD, have given me.” You shall leave it before the LORD your God and bow low before the LORD your God.׃
וְשָׂמַחְתָּ֣ בְכָל־הַטּ֗וֹב אֲשֶׁ֧ר נָֽתַן־לְךָ֛ יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ וּלְבֵיתֶ֑ךָ אַתָּה֙ וְהַלֵּוִ֔י וְהַגֵּ֖ר אֲשֶׁ֥ר בְּקִרְבֶּֽךָ
And you shall enjoy, together with the Levite and the stranger in your midst, all the bounty that the LORD your God has bestowed upon you and your household.
The farmer, after working so hard to plant, prune, gather and bring the fruits opening declares that it was Hashem who ultimately did the work. The farmer’s declaration teaches us an important message in appreciation and humility.
There certainly is a risk that the farmer could conclude that it was through his sweat and hard effort that he is able to celebrate his bounty. By making the declaration, the farmer acknowledges that he is the beneficiary of previous generations.
His land was gifted to his ancestors when they entered many years previously. The farmer’s declaration paints a sweeping overview of history, it also allows him to see his place in a large panorama of history.
I love this lesson. For we too enter the world built with infrastructure, farms and technology.
Previous generations built the world that we now reside in. If we study our past and understand what they had to do, the sacrifices that they made so that we can live in our community, then we have a greater appreciation of what we have.The ancient declaration of the farmer forms the basic text of the Pesach Hagaddah, which teaches us, as Jews, our place in the drama that is Jewish history. The Hebrew word for thank you is Lehodot להודות which on the one hand means to thank and the other to acknowledge. By saying Thank you we acknowledge what you have done for me. As the year ends and the new year begins we pause to thank all those who made this year so special for us.
On a personal note, thank you to all for your support, suggestions and comments. May the year ahead bring an increase in learning opportunities as we unlock the treasure that is our Jewish heritage.