In this week’s reading, G-d Commands us to bring our first fruits to the Temple, and recite a passage found in the Passover Haggadah: “An Aramite [attempted to] destroy my father, and he went down to Egypt… And the Egyptians oppressed us… and we cried out to HaShem the G-d of our fathers, and HaShem heard our voice… and G-d brought us from Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, with great awe, with signs and wonders… And He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” [26:5-9]
Both Passover and bringing of the first fruits are times when we must recognize our blessings and their origin. They say “there are no atheists in foxholes,” but foxholes are a lousy place to get religion! The Torah wants us to develop a connection with happiness and love, rather than fear. The curses found in this week’s reading only come about “because you did not serve HaShem your G-d with joy and a good heart, from an abundance of all.” [28:47]
With the Days of Awe around the corner, we must recognize that although we should feel regret for our misdeeds and fear His Judgment, we should also feel joy that we are privileged to come before Him, and rely upon His compassion. A person in front of a secular court may indeed be scared straight — but he may simply be hoping to be found innocent so that he can go right back to being guilty.
In our case, the goal of this season is internal change: we must recognize and feel grateful for all the blessings we have received, and resolve within ourselves to do better, to show our appreciation for what we have received in the past — even if we will never truly achieve the ability to show full thanks for all He has done, much less to truly deserve it. We are given ever so much more than we can even thank Him for, and recognizing that tempers the fear with true joy.
Rabbi Yaakov Menken
Director, Project Genesis – Torah.org