Our parsha opens with the mitzvah of bringing the first fruits to the Holy Temple. Farmers in the land of Israel were commanded to take the first ripened fruits to the Temple and present them to the Kohen, and to thank Hashem publicly for saving us from our enemies and bringing us to the Holy Land (Artscroll commentary) “Then you shall call out and say before Hashem your God, ‘An Aramean tried to destroy my forefather. He descended to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation- great, strong, and numerous… Then we cried out to Hashem, the God of our forefathers, and Hashem heard our voice and saw our affliction, our travail, and our oppression.’” (Chapter 26, Verses 5-7)
Reb Noson teaches that the first fruits are the aspect of renewal. A farmer was obligated to bring the new, first ripened fruits each year, as described above. Hashem, with his kindness and wonders saved us from our enemies. What does renewal mean? A person needs to renew themselves all the time, and to start again from the beginning when they’ve fallen. Don’t be startled by your thoughts, says R’ Noson, when you think of all of the obstacles, and trials, and attacks of the evil inclination that you’ve experienced. Rather, a person needs to remind himself of Hashem’s kindnesses and miracles which he has seen until this moment, just as the Torah teaches us in the chapter about the first fruits. Despite everything that the Jewish people went through in the Exodus, and everything that Yaakov our forefather experienced with his brother Esav and in the house of Lavan, nevertheless Hashem helped them and saved them. So too on a personal level, each person goes through all of the same types of trials during their lifetime. The evil inclination pursues a person and overcomes them and tries to knock them down every day, just as Lavan and Esav pursued and even wanted to kill Yaakov. Nevertheless, Hashem helps each individual and the Jewish people as a whole every time, just as we say in the daily prayers: ‘and for your miracles which are with us every day, and for your wonders which are with us every moment… He who is good, because His kindness is eternal…” There is no other advice, says Reb Noson, except emunah (faith), which is the aspect of renewal. We can renew ourselves with the faith that Hashem is always helping us. A person should know that they truly don’t see and don’t know at all the bigger picture of their life; therefore they just need to strengthen themselves in the holy faith which we, the Jewish people, received from our forefathers. Don’t let anything you go through confuse you and startle you! The Sages said that even if a person transgressed the entire Torah, many times, God forbid, nevertheless there is no despair in the world, and even this person can make a new start! Hashem has pleasure, so to speak, from even the worst person, who is very far due to his sins, when he returns and comes closer to Hashem. Therefore, a person needs to start anew every time, which is the aspect of the first fruits. (Likutei Halachot, the Laws of Meat and Milk, 4th teaching)
This month is a powerful time to tap into the power of renewal and to contemplate how we want the new year of 5780 to be. What do we want to change? What do we want to improve? The new year ahead is a totally new creation and there are so many possibilities which are open for us. If this year has been, G-d forbid, a difficult and challenging year for you, the next year can be completely different! Everything can turn around. If this year was a really good year, we still need to strive to renew ourselves and to set new goals for ourselves. Hashem is helping us prepare this month for the new year ahead by setting objectives for ourselves, as well as by helping us see the issues in our lives which we need to try to improve and rectify. It is taught about the month of Elul that Hashem’s presence can be felt more closely and more strongly this month, the King is in the field. Hashem comes toward us and wants us to come closer to him. It is a time of mercy and love.
May we all merit as we prepare for the new year to renew our faith is Hashem’s loving presence and guidance, and may we seek His closeness when we pray and think about the new year ahead, amen.
(The image is courteous of Chabad.org)
2 thoughts on “Ki Tavo 5779”
Thank you! Very meaningful and uplifting comments .
Thank you Moshe! Your teachings help us to prepare for renewal of our loving connection to the Almighty as we approach the Days of Awe.
Here’s a reading I composed almost thirty years ago to introduce the Selichot prayers which begin Motzaei Shabbat for us Ashkenazim:
Ribono shel Olom, Dear God, Master of the Universe,
We are gathered together at this hour to ask forgiveness from You….for the many misdeeds we performed and for the many good needs that we neglected. We address You in humility. We are humbled by Your power, by the mind boggling forces of nature which produce this earth…carried aloft in space and traveling thousands of miles an hour, and yet this earth appears stationary to us. We are in awe of the beauty and order of this universe…the precise orbits of planets, stars, and galaxies…the dependable changes of seasons, the grandeur of mountains, oceans, and continents, the complex yet systematic structure of the smallest microorganisms and pieces of matter.
Who are we to address You? And yet You have bidden us to come to Synagogue at this hour to ponder the meaning of our lives…to take responsibility for our failures…to share our individual pain…but mollify it since we stand together with our community.
We are Your creations, under Your control, and yet You have fashioned us with free choice, independent thoughts, and independent actions which can defy Your will. In striking contrast to an ordered universe you have created Man…capable of poetry that inspires and enhances life…but we are also capable of destroying beauty and cruelly ending life.
Yet in Your inimitable way O Lord, You have created this world and called it “good” and “very good”…..because You know the good that man can achieve if we direct our efforts to follow Your law.
You focus Your attention on us, the Jewish people at this hour to listen to the sacrifice of our humbled hearts pour out our confessions to You.
We cannot comprehend how in the vast, limitless universe with myriad stars and solar systems that at this moment You have chosen to listen to us…unless we realize that You are הרחמן the All Merciful One.
You desire that we return unto You…that we turn inward and examine our deeds, not because you long to punish us…but because You wish to forgive us and have us be reconciled with You.
Why do you love human beings so? Why do You so patiently await our return unto You?
Are not the celestial beings more pleasing to You? Are they not dependable like the orbits of the planets…programmed for goodness and to sing Your praise?
Yet you desire our songs and poetry. You prefer our frail voices and freedom…because when we return to You we do so out of choice. We are not robots, controlled by others to follow commands and demands. We are created with free will.
We are able to choose between blind impulse and moral conscience. We are capable of concern and compassion or insensitivity and perverseness.
You have risked man’s inhumanity in order to pray for man’s godliness.
Like a loving couple that wants to marry, and who choose to be sensitive and caring and support each other and risk pain and infidelity, You love us and pray that we will be faithful in our love for You. And when we fall short of our potential greatness…you lovingly await our return…and willingly accept our teshuva, our sincerely spoken word and performed worthy deed as apology and atonement.
Your prophet Hosea taught us, “And I will betroth you to Me forever, and I will betroth you to Me in righteousness, in justice, and in lovingkindness, and compassion. And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness and you shall know the Lord.”
May we learn to recognize this year, Your love for us and so be moved to return to you in love.