Beit Midrash

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To dedicate this lesson

Declare That You Are Not Ungrateful


Rabbi Yossef Carmel

Our parasha opens with p’sukim describing the process of bringing bikurim (first fruit) to the Beit Hamikdash and making a declaration of thanks to Hashem for the Land, its produce, and the opportunity to give an offering before Hashem in the Beit Hamikdash (Devarim 26:1-11). This is followed by the declaration of the giving of terumot and ma’asrot. In that setting, one proclaims that he has completed to give not only portions due to levi’im but other portions due to widows and other needy people within society (ibid. 12-15).
The stress that the Torah puts on "going to the place" and standing "before Hashem, your G-d," emphasizes that the fact that we have such a place to go is part of what we need to thank Hashem for. This in turn reminds us that in order to build such a national religious center it is critical to have a significant public apparatus, even if it is a partial one like the one in place at the time of the Second Temple. Individuals are not capable of or allowed to make a Beit Hamikdash. Therefore, the thanks include gratitude for whatever level of independence we have at the time. (Historically the greater the level of political independence the easier it was to serve Hashem in the Beit Hamikdash. On the other hand, this did not prevent the Beit Hamikdash from turning almost into a center of idol worship, as happened during periods of the First Temple.)
In our days, as well, it is important to remember and remind others that the existence of the State of Israel affords us great opportunities, including in the realm of spirituality and Torah study (which is true even in a time of painful cuts in the budgets of yeshivot). The government also puts great resources at the disposal of the weakest members of society from a financial and physical perspective (even at a time of deep cuts in child allowance payments). Certainly we are to remember that the state tends to our security needs, whether from enemies from without or crime from within. It is also responsible for educational and cultural activities, from schools to libraries and recreational centers. The government of our independent state runs a health apparatus that cares for the broadest base of its citizens from the time of their birth to their last day. The state provides social workers who provide a very broad level of functions.
Receiving these services without giving the proper thanks runs the danger of violating that which Chazal said on our p’sukim: "And you will say to Him – that you are not one who denies the good he has received." One need not worry. Being grateful for that which one receives does not close the door on the ability to give constructive criticism for that which requires improvement. Specifically criticism that comes from one who has demonstrated his ability to say thank you is much more likely to be accepted and have a positive impact.
Let us pray for an improvement throughout society in this very important realm of recognizing the good.
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