Judaism: Kit Tavo: Gratitude to G-d, Despite Suffering
Larry DomnitchLarry Domnitch is an educator and the author of "The Cantonists: The Jewish Children´s Army of the Tsar", released by Devora Publishing. He resides in Efrat.
The recitation that accompanies the bringing of the first fruits (Bikkurim) in the times of the Temple, from the seven species of the Land of Israel to Jerusalem is an act of joy and appreciation for the bounty provided by Hashem.
Right after the Torah’s text for the recitation, the next sentence states, “And you shall rejoice in all the good granted to you by Hashem your G-d” (Devarim, 26:11).
Whether, it is a productive or a lean year, it is imperative to appreciate whatever is received from Hashem.
This message also applies to the text of the recitation as well, which recalls Laban’s pursuit of Jacob, the eventual exodus from Egypt, and the bringing of the Israelites into the land of Israel. The first fruits picked and brought to Jerusalem were ultimately the results of all these events.
In the text, the miraculous events of the exodus from Egypt are mentioned, “And Hashem took us out of Egypt by a strong hand and an outstretched arm, with great awe, with signs and wonders.” Devarim, 26:8
The recitation includes the reference to Jacob’s flight from Laban, “The Aramite sought to destroy my father.” (Devarim 26:5) As our sages teach, Laban’s intent was to destroy Jacob who was saved by Hashem. The intervention was not accompanied by wonders and open miracles as the exodus from Egypt.
Throughout Jewish history, Jews have suffered waves of persecution from tyrants and empires that have risen and fallen. The continued existence of Jewry despite all is a miracle, one within the confines of nature. Amid the evil and suffering, there is also the kindness of Hashem that enabled the Jews to persevere.
When German Jewish soldiers with the German army entered Poland during the First World War, and encountered the religious Jewish communities of Poland, the Ostjuden, many could not understand their inherent, innate sense of joy in the face of so much suffering that the war had caused them. How could they be so content in spirit? How could they dance and sing on their holidays?
They rejoiced in their very existence; in their very being, as Jews. Though lacking so much, they reveled in that precious legacy they possessed though elusive to many of their Jewish critics from Germany whose families had assimilated decades earlier.
In today’s world it is easy to despair. Like a disease, Jew hatred not only persists, but it is on the rise; From Iran to France, to Egypt to the UN and places in between. Yet, as Jews, we can rejoice as our ancestors who brought the first fruits and recited the recitation. We can thank our Creator who has brought us as Jews through the millennia.