12 Sep 2014

Ki Tabo 5774: Divine Partnership

Perashat Ki Tabo opens with a unique mitzvah that we have not been able to fulfill for 2,000 years. G-d asks us to bring our first fruits grown in the Land of Israel to the Bet Mikdash (Holy Temple) and present it to the kohen. We are then to declare our awareness that G-d has blessed our produce and that our investment in the land has yielded fruits.

The mitzva of bikurim,as it is called, is one that teaches us not only that we offer our first fruits to Gd but alsoguides us as to how to livein partnership with G-d. It teaches that, while we planted, watered, nurtured, and harvested the fruit, it is G-d who filled our crops with life, and bikurim acknowledges that partnership. The most important point of bikurim, however, reaches beyond the farmers, since it suggests a way of approaching life for all of us.

People can go through this life believing in nothing but themselves.We canstoically move through the world experiencing all the beauty it presents without acknowledging that it is a source of care and communication from the Creator. We can diminish our spiritual selves and not feel that the universe is speaking to us. Or, we can choose to be vulnerable, and allow ourselves to feel all that is around us as a communication of care from its Source —the force that we call G-d.

Bikurim is not a grand tribute. It is nothing more than a few fruits that are the first of the crop, not necessarily the best. The importance of the mitzva is that it prompts us to look at the very first responses of the world in which we invest as meaningful rather than meaningless. In the produce, we recognise the partnership that we have with our Creator and that the world is alive and responsive rather than dead and indifferent.

We are the eyes and mind of creation. The Jewish people have a legacy of caring. Generations of caring has taught our people to be sensitive and to regularly invest in the world and its development. In doing so, we have encouraged the world to value sanctity and to build one’s life together with G-d. But this mindset has fallen out of style today. More and more, people who find meaning in life are cynically laughed at and reminded of the world’s randomness. In many cases, such people are strongly encouraged to reject the existence of a Primal Being; the precursor for all that exists. What is so disturbing about this trend is its impulse to bestow upon man the divine power that he neither deserves nor can handle without descending into madness.

Ki Tabo guides us to keep our feet firmly on the ground, and to invest in the earth, enjoying its vast expressions as we gaze in wonder at the heavens and thank G-d for His graceful partnership.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Joseph Dweck