KI SAVO (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8) — “A Basketful of Thanks”

Bikurim – First Fruits.  The farmer in Israel is commanded to give something back to G-d:

When you enter the Land that G-d is giving to you as an inheritance, and you possess it and live in it.  You will take of the first of every fruit…and put it in a basket, and go to the place upon which G-d will choose to rest His Name.  (Deuteronomy, 26:1-2)

The farmer would go out to his field.  He would examine his olive orchards and his vineyards.  As soon as he saw the first bud that became a ripe fruit, he tied a string around it for future identification.  (“This Bud’s for You!”)  At harvest time, he would take that olive, or that cluster of grapes, or that wheat stalk and bring it to Jerusalem in a basket, where it would be presented to a Kohain.  (He could bring more, and they often did, but the actual requirement was to bring the very first fruit that became ripe.)

Once the basket is brought to the Temple in Jerusalem and placed in front of the Altar, he is required to make a declaration of thanksgiving that was, basically, an overview of Jewish History:

…”An Aramean tried to destroy my father (Laban – from Aram – tried to kill Jacob – See “Watch Out For WHAT Car?”) He (i.e., my father, Jacob) descended to Egypt and he lived there, few in number, and there he became a nation that was great, strong, and numerous.  The Egyptians mistreated us and afflicted us, and placed hard work upon us.  Then we cried out to G-d, the G-d of our forefathers.  G-d heard our voice and saw our affliction, our travail, and our oppression.  G-d took us out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, with great awesomeness, with signs and with wonders.  He brought us to this place, and He gave us this Land; a Land that flows with milk and honey.  And now, behold! I have brought the First Fruit of the ground that You have given me, G-d!”  (Ibid, verses 5-10)

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Quite a speech.  The farmer expressed his appreciation for G-d’s Divine Providence that protected our People from extermination, grew us into a powerful nation, emancipated us from Egypt, gave us all prime real estate, and produced a bountiful harvest for us to enjoy.  G-d has been very good to us.

A colleague of mine, Rabbi Avigdor Litmanowitz, shared with me an observation that was expressed at his Bris by his father.   (He must have a good memory!!!)

G-d has done so much for us.  How do we thank Him?  With a single grape?  With a pomegranate?  Throw a fig and a date into the basket and we’re ready to go?!!  After all the love and protection that G-d has bestowed upon His children, how dare we thank Him with a measly single fruit?  “Thanks for saving my life and making me a millionaire.  Here, have a raisin!”

We should be bringing bushels and barrels and dump trucks full of fruit!  Everything we have comes from G-d; the least we can do is bring a substantial gift to show our recognition of G-d’s generosity.

In reality, answered the senior Rabbi Litmanowitz, sometimes by giving more, you give less.

There is no way we can fully thank G-d for all He has done for us; any attempt to do so would fall short.  The reason we can fulfill the Mitzvah of bringing First Fruits with just one fruit is to show that in reality, there is no way we can possibly fulfill our obligation no matter how much we bring.  In fact, if you load up a box car with tons of the finest grapes, it is possible to fool yourself into thinking you have repaid G-d for His kindness.    

When I enter into a business partnership, my partner and I each bring our own efforts and talents to the table.  We each put something in, and we each take something out.  Hopefully, the profit justifies the effort put in. 

G-d is not a partner.  He is our beneficent Father and we are His grateful children.

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This is a lesson we can apply to our relationship with others as well.  We are obligated to express appreciation to others for their kindness.  When we do so, it should be as appreciation, not as a payback.

Your wife asks you to take out the garbage.  You really don’t want to, but she did, after all, make that phone call for you that you didn’t want to make.  So you take out the garbage.  Now you’re even!

Now she wants you to help her wash the kitchen floor for Shabbos.  You really don’t want to.  Not only that; you don’t have to!  You already paid her back by taking out the garbage.  But you’re a smart guy; you wash the floor.  Now she owes you!!

Now, isn’t that ridiculous?  Life is not a quid pro quo!  (For those of you in Rio Linda, California, quid pro quo is Latin and legalese for “something for something.”)

Your wife is the mother of your children.  She is a devoted wife, and she puts up with all your mishagassen!  Don’t you realize that there is no way that you could ever repay her for a fraction of the things she does for you?

Hakaras Hatov, expressing appreciation, is an ongoing obligation.  Don’t play games of “you owe me.”  Just say thank you.

Now, go out and buy you wife some flowers or a nice gift for Shabbos.  (Just make sure you give her more than one little raisin!)

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz 

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From the Archives

“A Basketful of Thanks” (2009) 

… The farmer would go out to his field.  He would examine his olive orchards and his vineyards.  As soon as he saw the first bud that became a ripe fruit, he tied a string around it for future identification.  (“This Bud’s for You!”)  At harvest time, he would take that olive, or that cluster of grapes, or that wheat stalk and bring it to Jerusalem in a basket… 

After all the love and protection that G-d has bestowed upon His children, how dare we thank Him with a measly single fruit?  “Thanks for saving my life and making me a millionaire.  Here, have a raisin!”… 

Read more

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 “It’s Aramaic to Me!” (2008) 

… Hearing the entire Torah in Shul is not sufficient: 

“Although one hears the entire Torah every Shabbos with the congregation, he is required to personally read every week from that week’s Portion, twice from the text, and once from Targum. (‘Translation’)” – Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, 285:1) … 

Every week, people read each verse of the upcoming Torah reading twice, followed by the Aramaic translation …

How about English?  Would it be acceptable for us Americans, whose Aramaic skills may be a little rusty, to read it twice in Hebrew, and once in English?…  

Read more

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 “Gateway to the Holy Land” (2005) 

… I was the only orthodox Jew on the street.  Very few live on the surrounding streets.  It is neither time- nor cost-effective for the charitable institutions to send their representatives to this neighborhood. 

…I opened the door and beheld a young Chassidic Yeshivah student.  “Ah freilichin Purim!”  he cried.  “Happy Purim!”  I invited him into my home, where the two of us sang and danced for a minute or so.  I gave him a donation and thanked him for bringing a Mitzvah to my home. 

“But how did you know to come here?” I asked. 

“Simple,” he responded. . . 

Read more

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 “How Could G-d Let this Happen to Me?” (2003) 

I turned on my car radio this morning (Thursday) and heard innocent voices of youth reciting a list of names. 2,792 names, read in alphabetical order, often preceded by, “and my father, _____”, or “and my mother and my hero, ____ “, or my dear uncle, _____.” 

So sad.  It seems like a million years ago, and it seems like only yesterday.  The day the world changed forever.  The day that many people said to America, “Welcome to Israel.”  Now everybody knows what a fragile and volatile cocoon of a world we live in … 

Read more

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 “Blessings and Curses on the West Bank” (2002) 

… Joseph had complained to his father about some of their actions. The brothers convened a Bais Din, a rabbinical court. In this court, they determined that Joseph, by gossiping to their father, had violated one of the curses in the Torah, and as such, deserved to be punished… 

 Read more.

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 “Let There Be Light” (2001) 

…This is a theory I like to call “religious atheism.” It conveniently allows one to believe in G-d without being angry with Him.  While some find comfort in this belief, it has no connection with Torah Judaism… 

Read more

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 “Watch Out For WHAT Car?” (2000) 

… “An Aramean tried to destroy my father. (This is a reference to Laban of Aram who tried to destroy Jacob.) …  the reference to Laban is surprising …We know him to be a swindler. We see throughout his connection with Jacob that he did everything he could to take unfair advantage of him. Laban promised his daughter Rachel to Jacob as a wife, only to trick him into marrying her older sister Leah instead. He negotiated one salary with Jacob and paid him a lower one. But nowhere do we find any indication that Laban actually wanted to KILL Jacob… 

Read more.    

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This is the weekly message at http://torahtalk.org. Copyright © 2000-2012 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (Brisrabbi.com) and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on September 3, 2009 at 8:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

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