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Israeli fruits

The offering of the First Fruits provides insight into how we can be happy with what we have.

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion is “Ki Tavo” (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8) and it contains the mitzva of “Bikkurim.” This is the mitzva to bring one’s first fruits to Jerusalem as an offering. The farmer is required to appear before God in His house and thank Him for his crops.

Not all fruits were subject to this ceremony, only the “seven fruits of the Land of Israel” which is wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates.

Although this offering is associated with the holiday of Shavuot, it is actually an offering that can be brought at virtually any time. The confusion and near total association with Bikkurim and Shavuot is because the mitzah begins on Shavuot, not that one actually has to bring the fruits on Shavuot.

“You Shall Be Glad With All the Goodness”

When these fruits were brought, a special declaration was made. In addition to the declaration, the Torah commands the farmer to rejoice, as it says: “You shall be glad with all the goodness that God has given you and your household…” (Deut 26:11).

The question is asked: why was it necessary for the Torah to command the farmer to be happy. The farmer is there because he had a good crop! He’s in Jerusalem – so he’s on vacation! There’s no question that the farmer is happy! As such, why must a commandment be given for the farmer to be happy?

It is explained that the mitzvah/commandment to be happy was indeed necessary. Many people have the unfortunate attitude that even when things are going well one might say, “Well, it could have been better” or “I deserve better.” Many farmers came to Jerusalem at the same time and could easily have become jealous other farmers’ larger, more bountiful baskets of fruit.

Suddenly, the farmer isn’t so happy anymore. Unfortunately, that’s human nature.

Hence, the Torah is commanding us to be happy with what we have regardless of what our neighbor has! We must be happy with what we have, even if it could have been better and even if our neighbor’s crop seems more attractive.

We must learn to be happy with whatever God gives us.

It is taught that Esau represents one who is never happy with what he has, and Jacob represents one who is always happy with what he has.

Where is this derived from?

When Jacob asked his brother, Esau, how he was faring, Esau replied, “I have a lot”, as if to say, it’s never enough. I could have more. I should have more.”

When Esau posed the same question, Jacob answered, “I have everything!” as if to say that God gave him everything that God knows he needs. If God didn’t give Jacob something, Jacob didn’t feel he needed it. As such, he has everything!

This is so vital a message, that later on in this week’s Torah portion, we are told that punishment comes because “You did not serve your God with joy!”

We have to work on ourselves to always be happy, and to always appreciate what we have. We must make sure to have the “Jacob attitude!”

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