Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Ki Tavo - 5776

Dear friends,

The Jewish farmer takes center stage in our Parasha, Kee Tavo. That would be most Isralites upon crossing the Jordan River and settling in the Promised Land.

The Mitzvah in the opening verses of this Parasha is the Mitzvah of Bikurim, bringing some of the first fruits of the harvest to the Temple. What is remarkable about this Mitzvah is that the farmer, when presenting the gift, makes a declaration in which he states that he is a witness to the fulfillment of G-d's promise to our ancestors about the Promised Land. He is in the land, the land has produced great fruits, as promised, and he is happy to bring this gift to the Temple - that's the core of his declaration.

The farmer also states that he has given the proper tithes as required by the Torah, giving a tenth to the poor and a tenth to the Levite. He then concludes by praying that G-d bless the people of Israel and the land, so that it flows with milk and honey.

The Talmud states that only a farmer, a land owner, can participate in this ritual. A person who does not own a farm cannot just go to the market, buy some good fruits and bring them to the Temple. They have to be the first fruits of the farmer, and he is the only one that can fulfill this Mitzvah.

I would like to share with you two observations:

  1. Upon presenting his gift and making the declaration of identity and thanksgiving, it is not the high priest or the Levite who offers a prayer to G-d to bless the people and the land but, rather, it is this ordinary farmer. Why? First of all, he is made to feel important. Secondly, his prayer is genuine and accepted as if it was recited by the High Priest.
  2. Only a farmer can bring the Bikurim, the First Fruits, to the Temple. It would seem that only the farmer understands what it took to come to this day - the hard work of plowing, planting, pruning and finally harvesting. Only he knows how much he depends on G-d for help in making his work a success. After all that he did, he needs G-d's help for a rain of blessing. Therefore, a prayer coming from such a person has more meaning than one from someone who did not experience the labor, worries and hopes, while awaiting the results.

Today, we can all be like the farmer of old. We can be proud of our labor and success - but we need to give thanks to G-d and at the same time be able to state that we have shared our bountiful harvest with the Levite, the poor, the orphan, the widow, the stranger and our community. In this way we can be assured that we are worthy to pray for our people and our land.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram