NY City Candle lighting 6:46
Shabbat ends 7:43
Shabbat is Chai Elul, the
Birthday of the Ba’al Shem Tov and the Alter
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.
This Shabbat is the birthday of the Ba’al Shem Tov, the founder
of Chassidut, and R’ Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of
Chabad Chassidut. Chassidut teaches at length how to bring joy
into service of Hashem. It is noteworthy that their birthday is
on the 18th of Elul, Chai, which means life, and
their teachings enliven our service of Hashem.
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
Dedicated to Simcha Ronen Zimmerman on the occasion of his Bris.
May he rise to be a star among his people and always be a joy to
Project of Chabad of Great Neck
East Shore Rd. Great Neck NY 11024
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