Not so fast – hold off on that produce!

  • Ilan Herrmann
The penultimate portion in the lead up to Rosh Hashanah is Ki Tavo. We search for the essential message G-d is trying to convey to us through the “living Torah”, especially in these important days preceding the Days of Judgement.
by Rav Ilan Herrmann, Soul Workout & Community Centre | Sep 19, 2019

And, indeed, a profound instruction is conveyed in the opening words for navigating the days ahead.

The commandment is as follows: when the people arrive in the promised land, and will inherit it and 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 bringing them to this time, moment, and blessed situation.

Now, we know that it took 14 years to settle the land – seven years of full conquest, and seven years of settling into all the territories designated for each tribe. Certain tribes settled far sooner, however, as their territories were first in line for conquest and settlement.

It poses an important question about the mitzvah (good deed) of bikkurim. The mitzvah of bikkurim is an individual obligation for each farmer and landowner to bring his first produce, and celebrate his success once settled. So why does the farmer who settled right away or soon after entry have to wait another ten to 12 years until the other tribes are settled, and only then bring his bikkurim? Should he not bring his first produce right away, and express his great joy and gratitude as soon as he can?

This last week we recalled and celebrated the birth of one of Jewish history’s most extraordinary and revolutionary figures, the Baal Shem Tov. At the core of the Baal Shem Tov’s legacy lies his exposition of the essence of the unity of the Jewish people. The Jewish nation, he says, is bound in soul on the deepest level and like the limbs of a body, we are only complete when we are united and not fractured. Divine blessing is primarily channelled when there is unity. Our challenge is to find and embrace unity in spite of individual differences.

The Baal Shem Tov’s message, and the timing of his birth corresponding to this week’s portion, answers the above question. Why aren’t the farmers who are already settled and are farming produce in the early stage of arriving in Israel obligated to bring their first fruits right away, especially as it’s an individual commandment? The profound answer is that even though the farmer has his portion of land and produce, and is probably happy and thankful, he cannot fully celebrate until his brothers are settled, and are able to bring their produce too.

This is the preparation for the lead up to the Days of Judgement. To recognise and embrace the unity of our people. To reach out and express love for our fellow Jew. This is the catalyst for the greatest blessings from above.


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