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Parshat Ki Tavo

Parshat Ki Savo

Sep 15, 2008

This week's Torah reading, Ki Savo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8), discusses the concept of the first fruits offering, Bikkurim. The Torah explains the commandment to bring an offering of the "first fruits" which the land yielded, upon entering and settling in the Land of Israel.

There are two opinions in the teachings of our Sages concerning this commandment. The Midrash Sifri maintains that every individual was required to bring the first fruits offering as soon as he entered the Land of Israel and his land began to yield fruit.

The Talmud, on the other hand, maintains that the obligation only applied once all of the Jewish people are living in the Land (it took 14 years from the time that the Children of Israel entered the Land of Israel under Joshua's leadership until the entire land was occupied and divided amongst the twelve tribes). The Talmud's reasoning is that the first fruits offering is connected with happiness which, the Talmud maintains, can only truly occur when everyone has reached a state of being settled on the land, not just one individual farmer.

These two approaches are not in contradiction. On the one hand, each of us needs to function as an individual and to reach our own personal potential. On the other hand, we cannot be oblivious to those around us. We also need to reach our potential on a collective, communal level. Without this collective achievement, we cannot achieve total happiness and fulfillment.

Just as a piece of complex machinery cannot function if even a small part is missing, the Jewish people are not just a collection of independent entities, but rather a a complete structure which requires each and every one of us to be intact in order to function. This is why we need to be concerned for the entirety of the Jewish people and why true happiness can come only when everyone is settled and fulfilled.

We, too, need to remember each and every person, wherever they may be. Our personal achievements are enhanced by concern for the wider community; conversely, without such concern for others, our own achievements become virtually worthless.

 

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