Ki Tavo: Scrutiny on the Bounty

Joy and how it is connected to blessing.

Rabbi S. Weiss,

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
Arutz 7

The centerpiece of our sedra - taking up no less than 66 p'sukim all told - are the various klalot, or curses, that will "find us" if we forsake HaShem and His directives. But before we get to the Tochacha, we describe the Bikkurim ceremony, as the farmer offers up his first fruits. What is the connection?

Additionally, the Torah tells us that these curses occur because we did not serve G-d "with joy and goodness of heart, when everything was abundant." What is the dynamic of joy and how is it connected to blessing?

Let's examine the Bikkurim ceremony. The farmer approaches the kohen with a basket of fruit. He then orally retraces the steps of Jewish history leading up to this glorious moment: how Yaakov was forced to go down to Egypt, where the Jewish People first excelled, but then suffered degradation and oppression; how we cried out to G-d, who liberated us and brought us back to Israel; how the Land responded to our touch and yielded bountiful produce.

In short, the farmer is consciously calling to mind how difficult things were in the past, and how fortunate he is to have gone from being a property-less slave to an independent land-owner. Only when he puts his life in perspective can he realize the blessings which he now has. Only when he acknowledges how poor he once was can he appreciate how rich he is now. That is the essence of joy.

And then he lays down the fruit. Maybe he has worked for years to reach this moment and become self-sufficient. But now he gives it to HaShem, in a sense returning back to square one and starting the process over again. Once more, he feels a bit insecure, but with a difference this time: now he knows that, with G-d's help, he can make his fields bloom again.

That same emotion once surrounded our b'chor, our first-born son (b'chor-Bikkurim). Maybe we tried for years to have a child, but then (in the days before the kohanim took that role) we turned our first sons over to G-d to serve in the Mishkan, and had to start our family anew.

The operative dynamic at work here: you don't know what you have until you lose it. By turning our precious possessions over to HaShem, we are at once acknowledging that He is the true source of our blessings as well as guaranteeing that we will never become too complacent and take those blessings for granted.

Do you want to be happy? Put your life in perspective. Remember when you once didn't have it so good, and you will appreciate the blessings you have now. Remember Israel when it didn't have all the amazing amenities and \opportunities of today, when visitors from abroad would bring eggs in their carry-on to give to their Israeli relatives, because none could be found here?

The joy we feel post-Yom Kippur, when we take that first delicious cold drink or first bite of food, after having denied ourselves of food and drink for 25 hours, is the same joy we should feel all year long as we count our brachot.