Please learn & pray for the recovery of Menachem Mendel Chaim ben Mirel.
Our reading begins with the offering of Bikkurim, the first fruits, in the Holy Temple. At the end of the process, the Torah says “And you shall be happy with all the goodness that Hashem your G-d has given you…” [Deut. 26:11]
In many similar cases, people ask, how can the Torah command an emotion? But in this case it is not difficult to understand. The preceding verses prescribe a recitation to be done when bringing Bikkurim, that describes everything that G-d has done to bring the giver to this point. Despite persecution and attempts to destroy us, Hashem made the Jews into a great nation. He took us from Egypt and planted us in our land. And, of course, the person making that declaration is bringing the first fruits that have come off that land during the year.
Despite a person’s efforts, whether there were crops to offer, and the quality of them, was in G-d’s hands. Was there rainfall, or drought? Did bugs eat the crops, or was there a plant illness? There was little a person could do in those days, but pray. The farmer recognized that everything, in the end, was a gift from Above. So it was easy to be happy and grateful, with but a moment of contemplation.
The Tiferes Shlomo notes that when a person receives a gift from the king, his happiness to receive the gift is almost entirely unrelated to its actual value. A Rabbi once showed me cufflinks he had been given by a former vice president, stamped with the appropriate seal. The fact that you could buy cufflinks of more valuable materials in any menswear store was irrelevant; these were priceless. The point, per the Tiferes Shlomo, is that the king (or vice president) gave him a gift, and it is the importance of the giver that is the real cause of his delight.
Today, most of us work in fields where our success seems to be more directly related to our own creative efforts. Even in agriculture, we have irrigation, fertilizers, and remedies for pests and diseases. So it is easier for us to forget that our efforts mean nothing without G-d’s gift, blessing those efforts with success.
But everything that we receive is a gift, a gift from the King of all Kings, and we must be thankful not only for the gifts that we are given, but that fact that we received them from Him, the true giver.
Photo credit: Office of the President of Poland