Rabbi Elana Dellal – 31 September 2018
This week we read the Torah portion Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8). In this section of Deuteronomy, Moses continues his instruction to the Israelites on how they should develop their society after entering the land of Israel. After decades of wandering they are preparing themselves to enter the land of Israel, the land that their parents held in their hopes as they crossed through the parted sea from slavery to freedom.
The parasha gives agricultural instructions on what to do when the first harvest of new fruits begins to blossom. The instructions have three steps.
Firstly, the Israelites are commanded to bring a portion of the first fruits as an offering of gratitude to God:
“When you enter the land that Adonai your God is giving you as a heritage, and you occupy and settle in it, you shall take some of every first fruit of the soil, which you harvest from the land that Adonai your God is giving you, put it in a basket and go to the place where Adonai you God will choose to establish God’s name.” (Deuteronomy 26:1-2)
Secondly, the Israelites are to recall the struggles of their ancestors:
“You shall then recite as follows before Adonai 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. The Egyptians dealt harshly with us and oppressed us; they imposed heavy labour upon us. We cried to Adonai, the God of our fathers, and Adonai heard our plea and saw our plight, our misery, and our oppression. Adonai freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, and by signs and portents.’” (Deuteronomy 26: 5-8)
Finally, they are to share their fruits with their community and the strangers in their midst:
“And you shall enjoy, together with the Levite and the stranger in your midst, all the bounty that Adonai your God has bestowed upon you and your household.” (Deuteronomy 26:11)
This instruction teaches us that as we embark on new journeys and find ourselves in a place of growth, there is value to offering gratitude to God for the blessings in our life, that there is power in memory and that our abundance must be shared with others.
How apt it is to have this lesson on new beginnings as we are in the midst of the month of Elul, as we prepare ourselves to immerse in the Days of Awe. During the 10 days of awe, beginning with Rosh Hashanah and culminating with Yom Kippur we re-commit ourselves to our own calling and ask ourselves: What will be new and different in the coming year? How will we invest our time, energy, efforts and gifts to ensure that the fruits of this new year, in whatever form they come, will be fruits to celebrate? When we emerge from the transformative experience of the High Holy days, and begin to see what blossoms from our re-commitment to our time, our mission and our community. Let us remember the message of this Torah portion. Let us take the time to offer gratitude to God for this opportunity, let us have our memory of where we have come from to bring depth and meaning to this season, and let us offer our new gifts to those around us.
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