THE POWER OF THE “FIRST FRUITS”

Torah Portion Ki Tavo Deuteronomy 26:1–29:8

Moshe Kempinski

We read in the beginning of the Torah Portion of Ki Tavo the following;

“And it will be, when you come into the land which Hashem, your G-d, gives you for an inheritance, and you possess it and settle in it, that you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you will bring from your land, which Hashem, your G-d, is giving you. And you shall put [them] into a basket and go to the place which Hashem, your G-d, will choose to have His Name dwell there.” (Deuteronomy 26:1-2)

Fruits are an awesome gift. Every bite of a fruit fills us with appreciation and enjoyment. Yet fruits can lead us astray as well.

G-d begins with creation of light and then began the individuation and particularization of his creation. In the midst of that creation we read of the creation of the fruit trees.

“And G-d said: ‘Let the earth put forth grass, herb yielding seed, and fruit-tree bearing fruit after its kind, wherein is the seed thereof: upon the earth.” (Gen. 1:11).

Yet we see that the earth responds in a somewhat different fashion than G-d’s command;

“And the earth brought forth grass, herb yielding seed after its kind, and tree bearing fruit, wherein is the seed thereof, after its kind; and G-d saw that it was good” (Gen 1: 12).The earth produced “trees producing fruit” as opposed to “fruit-tree bearing fruit after its kind”
 

The Midrash teaches that the original and ideal creation was that the trees themselves (their bark and trunk) would taste like the fruit that it produced, ”fruit-trees bearing fruit” Yet instead, the earth fashioned trees that only produced fruit.
 

Yet G- d “saw that it was good.” G-d purposely created a reality at odds with its ideal, a tension filled imperfect world. HaRav Kook explained that one of the basic failings of our limited perception of reality is that we generally aspire to the goal and ignore the process of attaining that goal. Man often focuses on the fruit of the tree and ignores the sweetness of the tree that bore the fruit.

On another level , we at times take so much pride in the fruit we “achieved” in bringing into existence ,we forget at times  the true source of that achievement.

That is the point of the Bikkurim ( First Fruits ) ceremony.

The ancient text called the Sifri declared that ” The Creation of the world occurred in the merit of the commandment of Bikkurim-First fruits.” That statement is so powerful in its simplicity that it demands to be explored.

After a year of toiling, planting, watering, tending, and caring for the produce man has grown, he enters his field. He sees the first ripening fruit of one of the seven species” “A land of wheat and barley, vines and figs and pomegranates, a land of oil-producing olives and honey[-producing dates) “Deuteronomy 8:8) .”: The farmer ties a band over this fruit and declares “This is for Bikkurim (the ceremony of first fruits)” Later, when it ripens, he places it in a basket.

These baskets were then brought to the Beit HaMikdash in a festive procession. These farmers, in this situation, are the tools of G-d’s revelation within nature. This would be true anywhere in the world. Yet this is especially true in the land wherein Heaven touches the earth. In such a place the very fruits carry a Divine message.

The return of G-d’s Glory, symbolized by the fruits and blossoms of the land. Ezekiel describes the return of the people from Exile in the following way; “But you, O mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home.”(ibid 36:8 ) .

Every fruit, every tree, every flower is a testament to G-d’s promises. That then becomes the role of these simple farmers. They are the vessels through which G-d’s Presence is revealed and glorified. That as the Sifri pointed out is in essence is the purpose of creation.” Hashem G-d took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. “( Genesis 2:15).

The purpose of creation is to bring humanity to an awareness of their partnership in Hashem’s plan. After the time effort and care exercised by every farmer in the tending of the garden, the farmer’s bringing the first fruits to Hashem is a powerful sanctification of Hashem’s name in reality. In this action the hardworking farmer points to the source of all achievement

That would be an important thing to remember as we eat of the fruits at the Rosh Hashanah festival table.

Gratitude, acknowledgement and sanctification ensconced in each fruit

LeRefuat Yehudit Bat Golda Yocheved

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