Deuteronomy 26:1 - 29:8
This week's parasha contains a commandment that we no longer observe: to bring the first fruits of all that grows as an offering to God. (Deut. 26:2) Yet, even if we no longer observe this mitzvah, we can still learn from it, especially as we prepare ourselves for the High Holy Days. Consider the following interpretation from a little known commentary called Akedah:
The whole idea of bringing your first fruits is to rid you of the idea that it is "your land," and to bring you to the realization that it is "the land that the Lord your God gives you."
As I understand it, this commandment is an exercise in humility. We are not to confuse the work of our own hands with the gifts we have received from God, and we must express our gratitude to the Source of our bounty.
Mussar, a Jewish ethical-spiritual practice, can help us to deepen our understanding of humility and gratitude. Here are two little quotes I have used in my own Mussar study. I offer them without further commentary for your consideration. Please allow yourself a little time to consider what they each are saying, for there is much more here than meets the eye. I hope you will find them challenging and meaningful as I did, and helpful as you continue your own soul-work in preparation for the High Holy Days.
“One who denies one’s strengths is not humble, but rather a fool. Rather, a humble person is one who understands that all his strengths and accomplishments are a gift from heaven. The more a person recognizes this, the more humble he is.” – Rabbi Leib Chasman (1867-1931)
Gratitude rejoices with her sister joy and is always ready to light a candle and have a party. Gratitude doesn’t much like the old cronies of boredom, despair and taking life for granted. - Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810)
Hi there! I am the senior rabbi at Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, Maryland, where I have served since 2016.
(c) copyright 2018 by Rabbi Gary Pokras