Friday, August 23, 2013

Thanx for Stating the Obvious

Aaaaaaand, WE´RE BACK!
Thank you for all your concern, encouragement, pressure and threats...and a big apology to each of you individually, for not having been at your shabbos tables over the summer...

No excuse is good enough, so I won´t even go there.
Please accept my apology, and I hope to be worthy of winning my readers back.

Every year Parshas Ki Savo falls out right before Rosh Hashana. Could there be a connection between the two?

The parsha this week teaches us about the mitzva of Bikurim- taking the first fruit of the harvest as an offering to Hashem.

 The medrash  connects the ´taking the first of the fruit´ to the beginning of all time- the creation of the world.  It writes that the world was created in the merit of the mitzva of bikurim.
Wait. Say what? What does that even mean? The whole entire world, full of people and trees and stars and ice cream and shoes... all in the merit of balancing a basket of fruit on top of your head while playing a trumpet?!

There has got to be a significant part of the mitzva that we are not aware of.

There's another medrash tanchuma that says that Moshe saw through ruach haKodesh that the Bais Hamikdash, holy temple will be destroyed in the future and that the first fruits will terminate. So in order to preserve this mitzva in whatever way possible, he arose and instituted prayer 3 times a day.
This is fascinating. There were many things that were involved in the temple service that he could've been afraid of losing and needed prayer to replace them with. But, clearly there was something special in the mitzvah of Bikurim which Moshe felt a need to safeguard and institute something to connect us to God in the same way Bikurim does.

The Shem M'Shmuel quotes a Zohar based on our medrash above: Only because of Divine kindness do they merit all this and dwell in the land. God brought them into the land and gave them all these great things, and they give the fruits of the bikurim to the Kohanim because they represent the kindness of Hashem.

Ok, now in English.
The function of this commandment is to create awareness and affirmation that our existence within the land of Israel has nothing to do with the merit of the land itself, but only because God has given it to us as an act of kindness. We received it in the grace of God.
This is akin to the purpose of the creation of the world. The very first words in the Torah are "B'raishis Barah Elokim..." B'Raishis- because of the first, Barah Elokim... For the merit of the first fruits of Bikurim, Hashem created the world.

The world was created and all of mankind was made by the chessed of God alone.  The Ramban informs us that the intention of all the mitzvos is to believe in God and concede that He created us.

Now, I know you´re all thinking I should get with the program and stop stating the obvious. Not recognizing God as our Creator is so 6,000 years ago. We all believe in God. We all know He created the world and everything in it. So why am I boring you with ideas you already know?

Actually, I have the same question about our obligation to say the Shema three times a day. Isn´t once a day sufficient? How often do I need to proclaim the Oneness of God? Am I an idiot that I forget after once a day?
No, this has nothing to do with my IQ. It´s about the challenge of being able to know something in our heads without necessarily feeling it in our hearts.

¨V´yaddata hayom¨, know it today... But that´s not all. ¨V´hashaivosa el levavecha¨, and bring it into your heart.
Knowing something intellectually, is easy. But bringing it into your heart is a whole nother thing. The power of repetition is what helps us feel God, and not just know Him.

One of the biggest illusions in life is kochi v√≥tzem yadi, my accomplishments are because of my own power.  
Of course we wouldn´t be successful or responsible without own effort, skills and talents. But without God´s constant involvement and Will, none of it would happen. He´s involved in every aspect of our lives.

When we enter our fields and notice all the new fruits that had ripened, we can think "Look at my wonderful produce. Look what an agricultural genius I am..."  
Instead, we need to look around at the field and notice the incredible generosity of Hashem, the kindness He bestowed upon me by allowing me to have these fruits in my land, and therefore I´ll consecrate them for Him. 

It's all because of Him. 

This act of Bikurim is an identification of the whole purpose of the world. To recognize and understand, and to act upon that understanding that the world, and everything we have in life, is but a gift from God.

So what´s the connection between our fruits, and Rosh Hashana? Is it the apple? 
It´s more than the apple. It´s the core. [insert snort] 

The pinnacle of Rosh Hashana is Malchuyos- the declaration of the solitary kingship of God.

 "Ani L'dodi V'dodi Li"... I am to my Beloved and My Beloved is to me. This is a relationship of love between us and God. An expression of how much He gives us. The mitzvah of Bikurim allows us to reflect upon the boundless chessed we receive constantly- day in and day out, from God, Himself.

Next time I notice something good in my life, I´m gonna stop for a moment and appreciate Who gave it to me. Maybe I'll even take out a siddur and say a few words to Him- hence the institution of prayer. 
And, when we pour our hearts out this Rosh Hashana, try this attitude:  
Don't tell Hashem how big your problems are... tell your problems how big Hashem is. 

 Have a great shabbos!