Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Ki Tavo
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Elul 16 5777
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.
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