We are commanded to bring the first fruits of our labor “unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there” and speak to our Gd:
י וְעַתָּה, הִנֵּה הֵבֵאתִי אֶת-רֵאשִׁית פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר-נָתַתָּה לִּי, יְהוָה; וְהִנַּחְתּוֹ, לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, וְהִשְׁתַּחֲוִיתָ, לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ.
|10 And now, behold, I have brought the first of the fruit of the land, which Thou, O LORD, hast given me.’ And thou shalt set it down before the LORD thy God, and worship before the LORD thy God.|
|11 And thou shalt rejoice in all the good which the LORD thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thy house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is in the midst of thee.|
And we shall “rejoice”.
These words are a great reminder for me personally. More often than not I see life in dark colors. Don’t we all have a slight tendency to complain? These verses teach me to look at life with a glance backward and be able to see the true reasons for rejoicing. And I do have them – a lot!
For example, I’ve just learned that my Digital Nomad (apparently, there is a hashtag) daughter just signed up for a half marathon in Lisbon, where she will land next month. She started training today. Now, this is something that I would have never been able to do. It is also something I would have never dreamt she would do. I remember when she was this shyest little girl never letting go of my hand. And look at her now!
Where did your fear go?
How did you grow up like this?
From a tiny scared birdie
To a full winged rider of the life’s waves
יז אֶת-יְהוָה הֶאֱמַרְתָּ, הַיּוֹם: לִהְיוֹת לְךָ לֵאלֹהִים וְלָלֶכֶת בִּדְרָכָיו, וְלִשְׁמֹר חֻקָּיו וּמִצְוֹתָיו וּמִשְׁפָּטָיו–וְלִשְׁמֹעַ בְּקֹלוֹ.
|17 Thou hast avouched the LORD this day to be thy God, and that thou wouldest walk in His ways, and keep His statutes, and His commandments, and His ordinances, and hearken unto His voice.|
|18 And the LORD hath avouched thee this day to be His own treasure, as He hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all His commandments;|
|19 and to make thee high above all nations that He hath made, in praise, and in name, and in glory; and that thou mayest be a holy people unto the LORD thy God, as He hath spoken.|
The contract has been signed
The stamps are affixed
Do not dare to deviate now!
This is the Parshah of curses and blessings. I am always curious as to why the curses are going first and are more numerous than blessings. Maybe it’s not even true, but it seems so. The blessing verses almost seem to be enveloped by the cursing ones. Is it because we are more easily convinced of the destructive power than of loving power? Or, is it because we tend to think about good things happening to us as “normal” as opposed to bad ones as disasters that are “abnormal”? I, certainly, do. However, “who told you that you should be happy?” (Read in in one of Romain Rolland‘s books, don’t remember which one now) It is, really, an everlasting question of why are we here? Not sure that I possess the answer even though I’ve lived at least half of my life by now.
א וְהָיָה, אִם-שָׁמוֹעַ תִּשְׁמַע בְּקוֹל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, לִשְׁמֹר לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת-כָּל-מִצְוֹתָיו, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם–וּנְתָנְךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, עֶלְיוֹן, עַל, כָּל-גּוֹיֵי הָאָרֶץ.
|1 And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all His commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all the nations of the earth.|
So this is the lofty statement we hear about when talking to other people. Everyone takes this as the Jewish attempt at exclusivity, and the more “progressive” our society is becoming, the more atrocious this sounds to people. The problem is that no one seems to pay attention to “if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God”. It is said that Eretz Yisrael can “vomit out” her inhabitants if they behave badly. This is, essentially, what happened to the nations Israel had to depose from the land. Today, however, how often do we think about that when we take steps leading to self-destruction?
Here’s a small lecture by Rabbi David Levin-Kruss discussing precisely some aspects of the choosiness.
It’s hard to believe that a New Year is coming up in just less than two weeks. For me, it is always not easy to do a Pre-Holiday teshuva, like I’ have to do something tangible within a certain period of time, and mark it off – “teshuva – check”. So, I find that I am self-searching and trying to add good actions at different times. How does one learn to turn the switch off and say – now I am becoming a better person – praying more, visiting the sick, doing chesed?
On this Shabbat, I’d like to wish us all the possibility to self-examine if we really deserve being chosen and what are we really doing to make sure we earned this right and responsibility.