18 Elul 5777 – Ki Tavo

I wish a hearty Mazal Tov to the Barukh and Lobel families on the wedding call-up of Dinah and Ben this Shabbat morning and also to the Or family on the Bar Mitzvah of Idan this Shabbat afternoon!

Some of us may find this confronting but… how many of us can remember the last time we said ‘thank you’? Now, I don’t mean the type that’s rushed under the breath after someone hands us something, but rather, a genuine, heartfelt thank you. When was the last time we looked someone else in the eye and said ‘Thank you for raising me, providing for me, for assisting me with such and such, it really has made a difference..”?

Saying thank you is so important and we see this value in this week’s Torah section of Ki Tavo that speaks about the Bikurim, the first fruits. 

Essentially the process was as follows: When a farmer would inspect his fields and notice the very first buds of fruits beginning to sprout, he would tie a string around them and declare: “Harei Zeh Bikurim” (“Behold, these are the first fruits”). Then some weeks later after the fruits had ripened, he would harvest them, place them in a basket, and go up to Jerusalem amidst great celebration and fanfare. Once there, he would place them as a gift inside of the holy Temple and make a verbal declaration in which he would thank the  Almighty for granting him the means and prosperity with which he reached this special moment. 

So two things are worth mentioning here. Firstly, this whole process was designed to counter the human tendency towards self-praise and aggrandisement. Although the farmer may be quite skilled and had invested much effort in amassing his fortunes, this process reminds the farmer that ultimately it is Hashem who is responsible for all of our blessing and success. 

Secondly, in telling us the details of how the fruits must be transported the Torah places an emphasis on a particular word – “tene” meaning “basket”. But who cares how the fruits get to Jerusalem! Why the need to emphasise that they had to be taken in a ‘basket’?

Yet from this word we learn an important lesson. The basket was the enabler. Without it, the fruits would scatter everywhere and not make the journey. The Torah is subtly communicating that we have to remember and place importance on the “basket” or the “enablers” in our lives because, without them, we wouldn’t be who we are today and achieve what we are able to. 

So the message for this week is a crucial and empowering one. Let’s ensure that we show real gratitude to all those whose actions have positively impacted upon us. Let’s make the additional effort of looking them in the eye, or placing that unexpected phone call to sincerely show appreciation for all the good that has been bestowed upon us. 

Wishing you and your families only continued blessing and a Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Yossi and Chana Raizel Friedman

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