This week’s reading begins with the Commandment of Bikkurim, bringing the first fruits to the Holy Temple, and other gifts that were given to the Priests, Levites and the poor. Having finished the process at the end of the third year, the farmer declared, “I have cleaned the sanctified from my house, and I have given it to the Levite, to the convert, to the orphan and the widow, like all Your Commandments that You have Commanded me… look down from your Holy dwelling, from Heaven, and bless Israel Your nation” [Deut. 26:13, 15].
As the Avnei Azel points out, this idea of offering the “first fruits” is not limited to that which grows from the ground. There are also Commandments to give the first born and tithes from domesticated animals. Extending this concept further, he says, we must bring before G-d the “first years of youth,” to ensure each child receives a Jewish education.
The first time the Commandment of Bikkurim is mentioned, it is called “reishis,” that which is at the head, “the beginning of the first fruits of your land” [Ex. 23:19]. The same word is found in Psalm 111:10, which reads, “the beginning of wisdom is fear of Heaven, good understanding for all who do them [e.g. the Commandments], His praise stands forever.”
I wrote recently about the tragedy of Jews deprived a Jewish education, left with no understanding of the unique hatred that is antisemitism. Every form of hate is different, and it’s not hard to perceive antisemitism when you know what to look for. But the “Jewish” groups tolerating and even endorsing anti-Jewish boycotts all share something else in common: they fail to seriously engage with Jewish history, Jewish ideas and Jewish texts — all while claiming to speak for “Jewish” morality!
This same concept applies to each of our days, as well. In the same way that we must give the first of our years to Jewish education, we must start our days the same way — because “the beginning of wisdom is fear of Heaven.” When we start our children off with a Jewish education, and our days with Jewish learning, we do our part to acquire wisdom for ourselves, and ensuring the Jewish future, for “His praise stands forever.”