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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Ki Tavo

The Art of Being Grape-ful

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Our sedra contains the description of the beautiful act of bringing Bikkurim. A farmer in Israel would mark his first-fruits as they began to bud, and later would select them to be presented in a basket (often golden) to the Kohen in an elaborate ceremony. The farmer would express his gratitude for all that Hashem had done for him - bringing him to a beautiful land where he could be free to bring forth produce in abundance to support his family and be fulfilled. The assembled crowd would cheer and sing as the presentation was made.

How full a basket was the farmer required to bring? While it could be an abundant amount, the Halacha is that even one grape was sufficient! But this begs the question: Does one grape show gratitude and thanks?!

One of the answers to this question is that, in truth, no amount of fruit would be sufficient to show appropriate thanks to Hashem. But even more important, G-d does what He does for us not because He expects anything in return, but because He loves us intrinsically. He does not expect any "reward" other than our faith in Him and our commitment to follow His guidelines for a meaningful life - all of which is to our own benefit. And so the one grape serves to graphically demonstrate that Hashem is much more desirous to be the giver - not the taker.

As we approach the Days of Atonement, this is a profound message. Hashem is waiting, longing, pleading for us to make our move; to show even the slightest inclination to further our relationship with Him. To take that first step, no matter how small, on the road to Teshuva. The response will be enormous, far out of proportion to what we are offering. We crack the opening just a tiny drop; Hashem throws the doors wide open.

Knowing that a ready and willing G-d is on the other side of that door, anxious for a reunion, should inspire us to take the initiative. Most of all, we must never despair or give in to our lesser instincts. That would be - yes, you guessed it - just sour grapes.
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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