Friday, September 4, 2015

Ki Tavo 5775, September 2015, Using our Gifts

This week's parsha is best known for the blessings and curses section, yet before that we learn about the mitzvah of bringing bikkurim, first fruits, to the Beis Hamikdash. What is so special that we should learn this so prominently, and what is the point of bringing single items in groups to Jerusalem with such ceremony?

The mitzvah itself is to mark the first growth of any of the special species of the land of Israel on land we own each year (those being barley, wheat, grapes, dates,  pomegranates, figs, and olives); and then to to bring those specific grown products in a basket to the holy Temple together with the rest of one's settlement area all traveling together in procession. Important people of the city of Jerusalem would come greet them as they approached, and then all the residents whom they passed would stand as they approached them personally.

It says in Mishlei, "Honor G-d from your wealth and from the first of all your harvest; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your winepresses will burst with wine." It is our trust in G-d which allows us to receive what we do. Not that one receives in this world directly in proportion to his honoring of G-d, but only through honoring G-d at all does the entire world receive any portion.

One must not think that by giving, his own possessions are diminished, for it is G-d and not we ourselves who determine our own portion. Again in Mishlei it states, "There is he who scatters, and yet increases more."

Only in mitzvahs of giving is one allowed to test G-d, in fact, not in mitzvahs of accumulating or receiving. For it says in Malachi, "Test Me with this. Give tithes and charity and see if I will make you wealthy."
Perhaps your gift is juggling? No, really, my beloved husband
has many gifts and is blessed to have the wisdom to use them
in the name and honor of Ha Kodesh Baruch H-
As B'nai Yisroel are called "the first of G-d's harvest," in Yirmeyahu; and Toldos Yitchak writes that so we are commanded and taught to bring our first fruits in both literal and figurative senses. This means that the mitzvah is valid even today. The chachamim explain this means that anything one has as a gift in character or ability is his gift from G-d and should be treated as bikkurim. This can be material wealth, in which case one has the responsibility to do good to others as the physical representation of G-d's works on Earth in this era without a Beis Hamikdash. One who has no real material wealth though may have other gifts--a beautiful voice, a wise mind, an ability to write coherently, an knack for teaching others, artistic skills, anything. One is thus commanded to use these skills not for personal aggrandizement, but for the honor of G-d, to make one's fear and love of G-d known and publicly shown. This is a mitzvah every single person can do, for we all have gifts even if the gift is not so obvious like a loving heart which makes others feel drawn in; or a quiet nature which allows others to notice the holiness about them in the world. It's important we each keep in mind consciously what our gifts are, that they are G-d given, that they are part of us, and that we can use them in G-d's honor to perform a mitzvah otherwise inaccessible.

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