Ki Tavó 5777 – English

By Rabbi Daniel A. Kripper
Beth Israel – Aruba

There is a story about a Hasid who one time addressed Rabbi Mendel to request a blessing for good sustenance. “Pray to the Eternal One and He will provide you with good sustenance,” advised Rabbi Mendel. “But I don’t know how to pray,” the Hasid responded. Stunned, the Rabbi answered, “You don’t know the essence of prayer and yet you complain about the lack of food? You ask for a blessing for a secondary issue instead of starting with the principal?!”

The modern Jew is somehow like this hasid, the basics of praying is unfamiliar, unknown, inscrutable.

History irrefutably proves that in past times, our ancestors were poor in material things, but rich in spirit. Today, the situation is reversed: large spiritual shortages amid material comfort.

In the weekly chapter that deals with the Bikurim, the first fruits of the harvest which were offered in the Temple of Jerusalem, the goal seems to be to educate people towards developing their sense of gratitude and their ability to pray: “and do not say to yourself: my strength and the might of my hand that has accumulated this wealth for me.” (Deut. 8:17)

The offering of the Bikurim was accompanied by a reading and a prayer that showed the spirit of joy and thankfulness for the abundance and fullness of blessings.

The content of this prayer essentially represented a commemoration of the fateful days in the beginning of the history of Israel. Right at that moment of celebration of bringing the fruits, the farmer was taught to remember his sorrowful past.
There are many who would try to forget old sorrows in times of wealth, as if ashamed of their past or embarrassed with those memories.

The Torah’s perspective is completely the opposite: “Speak,” it insists, say it out loud, do not be ashamed of your humble beginnings. Do not let the present be a break-up, but a natural flow through the generations. Thus, you will feel the satisfaction of your progress in all your endeavors.

With this historical review, told in the first person, the message would be: become conscious of this, to be sensitive and considerate of those who suffer shortages and scarcity today. Then, you will fulfill your duty, not only to yourself and your kin, but to those who have nothing, the levi, the homeless, the stranger that lives within your borders. That is why the chapter of the Bikurim is followed by the chapter on tithes, the donations meant for the layers of society most in need.

Remembering the past through ritual gives people the opportunity of considering the spiritual significance of life, both at a personal level and as a people, thus strengthening social consciousness.

It is this ethical spiritual aspect of our Parashah that must be nurtured and revalued in our days, to improve the world in all its dimensions.

Rabbi Daniel Kripper