Blessing of unity
The penultimate portion in the lead-up to Rosh Hashanah is Ki Tavo. An essential message is contained in the “living Torah” to each of us in this important pre-day-of-judgement portion.
The commandment states, “When the people shall arrive in the Promised Land and will settle in it, they must bring from the first of their produce [bikkurim] to the national place of worship and in a state of abundant joy, proclaim their gratitude for having reached this divinely blessed time and situation.”
A question arises. It took 14 years to settle fully into the land. There were seven years of conquest and seven of settling into the particular territories designated for each tribe. Certain tribes settled far sooner than others yet weren’t obliged to bring bikkurim until all the tribes had settled. The mitzvah of bikkurim is an individual obligation for a farmer to bring his first produce and celebrate his blessing with thanksgiving. Why did the farmer who settled right away or soon after entry have to wait another five or seven years until all the tribes had settled and only then bring his bikkurim? Should he not bring his first produce right away, and express his joy and gratitude as soon as he could?
The portion is always connected to the week that it follows into. Ki-Tavo preceded the important day of Chai-Elul on which one of Jewish history’s most extraordinary and revolutionary figures was born – the Baal Shem Tov. At the core of his legacy lies his exposition of the essential unity of the Jewish people – how they are a uniquely bound entity, a singular collective soul. The collective soul is a composite of the splinter souls of each individual Jew. To be in unity is to be organically whole and aligned. To be the opposite is to be soul fractured collectively and individually. Only when we operate with the mind and action of unity and brotherhood are we in consonance, do we fuse into the collective essence of who we are, and are we in a state of soul integrity. Naturally, then, our strength emerges when we’re united. And naturally, divine blessing is channelled primarily when we’re in unity. Our challenge is to embrace unity in spite of our individual differences.
So why weren’t those farmers who were already settled obligated to bring their first fruit right away? The profound answer is that even though the individual farmer had his land and produce and was joyous and thankful, he none-the-less felt inadequate to celebrate until his fellow brothers were settled and able to bring their produce too. He was unable to be in full joy as his fellow – and therefore himself – was unable to share in this blessing. This mitzvah expresses the essential unity and brotherhood of am Yisrael (the Jewish people) reflective of the Baal Shem Tov.
Vital to the lead-up to Rosh Hashanah is to calibrate towards unity – love for our fellow Jew in thought, deed, and action. The catalyst for the greatest blessings.