Shalom and Bracha!
May Hashem inscribe you, your entire family and all those who
are dear to you in the book of life for a healthy, happy,
prosperous and sweet new year and may we see the redemption
through Moshiach immediately!
This Shabbat is we read the portion of Ki Tavo. The portion
begins with the Mitzvah of Bikkurim, the first fruits, and
continues with the Mitzvah of tithing. The Mitzvah of Bikkurim
consists of taking the first fruits of our crops and bringing
them to the Temple in Yerushalayim where they were distributed
among the Kohanim. Rashi explains that when one sees the first
fruits ripening, he marks it and declares it Bikkurim. At the
time of the harvest he separates it to bring to Yerushalayim.
The Mishnah describes the bringing of the first fruit as an
elaborate and joyous ceremony. All of the Jews in a region would
gather together. As they walked to Yerushalayim, the procession
was lead by an ox with golden horns and a crown of olive leaves.
They would proceed slowly, singing the entire way. The Bikkurim
were brought in elaborate vessels, adorned with doves. Upon
reaching Yerushalayim, the city officials would come and greet
the pilgrims. Upon reaching the Temple Mount even the wealthiest
individuals would personally carry their Bikkurim until reaching
the altar. There, they would thank Hashem for the Exodus, the
land of Israel and for all of Hashem's blessings.
The Mitzvah of Bikkurim itself teaches us that the first thing
we must see in everything is its potential for serving Hashem.
This is the strongest expression of our faith that everything we
have is a gift from Hashem. Before we enjoy the fruits of our
labor, we use them for a Mitzvah. The significance of the
first is also very great. First impressions have a long
effect. When the first usage of something is for the service of
Hashem, directs its further usage. This is also why the first
words we say each day should be Modeh Ani, thanking G-d for
life. Similarly, we begin the day with prayer and Torah study in
order to direct the day in the right manner.
The manner of bringing Bikkurim is a tremendous lesson. The
procession and the ornamentation demonstrate that a Mitzvah is
not a burden, but rather an act of love and joy. We are
privileged to serve Hashem and whether a Mitzvah entails
physical or financial exertion, we rejoice in fulfilling it.
The fundamental importance of joy in service of G-d is further
stressed later in the portion. The Torah describes the blessings
which come for following G-d’s commandments and the negative
consequences for going against the path of G-d. At the end of
the consequences, the Torah explains that all of the negative
consequences came for not serving Hashem with joy and a good
heart. The Arizal, a great Kabbalist, explains the verse to mean
that even had we served Hashem, but without joy, we deserve
punishment. Through service with joy, we merit all of the
Joy is critical because it defines our fulfillment of a Mitzvah.
Every Mitzvah is an opportunity to be connected with Hashem.
This is our greatest privilege. When a Mitzvah is cold, either
there is a lack of understanding or a lack of wanting to be
close with Hashem. When there is joy there is a bond of love
that elicits blessings in every manner.
Saturday night we begin saying Selichot, penitential prayers in
preparation for Rosh Hashanah. Selichot must be recited with
joy. Although they are prayers of confession and contriteness,
when we recite them we are sure Hashem will forgive our misdeeds
and grant us a good new year. The Tur explains that the reason
we dress festively and eat festive meals on Rosh Hashanah, even
though it is the Day of Judgment, is that by showing our faith
in Hashem that He will judge us favorably, He does! Similarly,
we recite Selichot with joy assured of forgiveness.
By discussing Ma’aser (tithing) in the portion we read shortly
before Rosh Hashanah, the Torah gently reminds us to fulfill our
charity obligations at this time. When the Torah discusses the
Mitzvah of Ma’aser, Rashi comments that the power of gifts to
the needy is so strong it changes Hashem’s severity to kindness.
As we approach Rosh Hashanah, we all need that extra measure of
kindness. May we merit the ultimate kindness and see the coming
of Moshiach right now!!
Shabbat Shalom and a Ketivah Vachatimah Tovah Leshana Tovah
Rosh Hashanah begins the eve of September 16th
Helping the needy with holiday provisions is a great Mitzvah at
this time of the year. Particularly this year, when so many
families are struggling to put food on the holiday table, I
implore everyone to join in this Mitzvah. Please send a donation
to Chabad Food Fund at the address below. Donations can also be
made via email.
Project of Chabad of Great Neck
East Shore Rd. Great Neck NY 11024
4874554 fax 516 4874807