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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Ki Tavo


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Rosh Hashana & Pesach are the "book-ends" (or maybe we should say "book-beginnings!") of the Jewish year, as the months of Tishrei & Nisan are "new starts" for us. The common denominator that connects these two seminal holidays is the principal of Hakarat HaTov – gratitude to Hashem for the many blessings He bestows on us each & every day.

And so, in our Sedra of Ki Tavo – which is always read just before Rosh Hashana each year – we are told about the Mitzva of Bikurim, the first-fruits brought as an offering in the Bet HaMikdash. The farmer presenting it recites a beautiful soliloquy that begins with the words "Arami Oved Avi, My father was a wandering Aramean" - the same exact phrase found in the Pesach Hagada!. He thanks Hashem, & testifies that he has faithfully kept his side of the bargain with G-d, & so he is deserving of these blessings.

I list part of his speech, with a bit of Rabbinic license:

"Biyarti HaKodesh Min HaBayit – I removed the holy things from the house." That is, I did not only act in holiness within the 4 walls of my house. I also took the holiness outside – to my business, to my dealings with fellow Jews.

"Lo Avarti MiMitzvotecha, V’lo Shachachti; I did not deviate from your Mitzvot & I did not forget." I did not forget that You, G-d, are the One who gave me these Mitzvot; that You are watching & guiding me. I did not perform these acts simply out of habit, by rote or due to peer pressure; I did them because they emanate from you, and they connect me to You in a personal way.

"Lo Achalti B’Oni – I did not eat ‘B’Oni.’ " When I ate, when I enjoyed all the blessings you awarded me, I did not eat alone, focusing on just the "Ani," the "me." I shared with others, I included the community in my good fortune.

"Lo Biyarti Mimeni B’Tamei – I did not consume it in an unholy fashion." Yes, I am a consumer, & I surround myself with a multitude of items that enhance my life. But I did not waste! I consumed, I bought, I used what I needed - but not to a fault. I conducted myself in a holy fashion, with modesty, moderation & consideration for the people and the planet around me.

"Lo Natati Mimenu L’Meyt – I did not give of it to the dead." I used what you gave me not so much for inanimate objects - which are lifeless or "dead" - but for that which brings Life: The Torah, the continuity of the Jewish People & Israel.

And so, I can now confidently turn to you with my request for the New Year:

Hashem, look down from your Heavenly place & bless Your nation & the Land which You gave to us. Amen.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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