Divine Joy

Through the Lens of Torah
Ki Tavo Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8    

Moshe Kempinski

Judaism Torah scroll from Holocaust at IDF base
Torah scroll from Holocaust at IDF base
צילום: PR

The beginning of the Torah Portion of Ki Tavo begins with the Hebrew word VeHaya ;

“ And it will be,( Ve Haya)  when you come into the land which Hashem, your G-d, gives you for an inheritance, and you possess it and settle in it,( Deuteronomy 26:1) . We are told by the Midrash Rabba  that “ VeHaya” is a code word for joyful expectation. ."Rabbi Shmuel Bar Nachman came and declared, 'In any place where it says “And it was (VaYehi ) “ it signals distress; and when it says “And it shall be (VeHaya) ”  it signals rejoicing.'"

The Torah then goes on to describes the mitzvah of bringing the first fruits of one’s produce to Jerusalem and the Holy Temple: “It will be when you enter the land that Hashem your G-d gives you as an inheritance….that you shall take of the first of every fruit…and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that Hashem your G-d will choose…” (Deuteronomy 26:1).

After completing the whole ceremony of bringing in the Bikkurim ( the first fruits) the farmer is commanded  the following; " And you shall rejoice in all the good which Hashem  your G-d  has given unto you, and unto your house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is in the midst of you. ( Devarim 26:11).

Yet further on in the parsha we read of the great Tochecha, the great Rebuke, wherein ninety eight curses are declared on the people of Israel if they stray from their path. Most dramatically, though, the Torah then states that these curses will befall the people "because you did not serve Hashem, your G-d, with happiness and with gladness of heart, when [you had an] most of everything ( Rov Kol) ( ibid  28:47).

To understand then the importance of Joy and the secret to obtain that level of Joy van be found in exploring the experience of the Ceremony of the First fruits.

When the people were to finally succeed in entering the land, the farmers are commanded to bring their first fruits to the Temple . After a year of toiling, planting, watering, tending, and caring for the produce man has grown, the farmer enters his field. He sees the first ripening fruit of one of the seven species and he ties a band over this fruit and declares "This is for Bikkurim (the ceremony of first fruits)." Later, when it ripens, he places it in a basket.

These baskets were then brought to the Temple in a festive procession. As the procession would walk through the streets of Jerusalem, all the workmen, scholars and even the king would stop what they are doing and stand in honor of these farmers.

The Torah commentator Bartenura raises the following question. According to another Jewish law, it is obligatory to stand in honor of a Torah scholar when he passes .This is done not so much to honor the scholar as it is to honor the Torah that he represents. Yet that same Jewish law states that craftsmen do not have to stop their work to stand up for such a scholar as this would interrupt their work and livelihood. “Why” ,asks the Bartenura,” is this not the case regarding these farmers bringing the first fruits ?”

Why does everybody stop what they are doing for the farmers?

What do the farmers know that all the others must glean from them?

Farmers know that all that they are able to bring forth from the land involves great effort, great care and great consistency. Yet on the other hand farmers know that all their efforts cannot succeed without the gentle watchful care from  the Heavens. "It is a land Hashem your G-d cares for; the eyes of Hashem your G-d are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.( Deuteronomy 11:12)".

In fact that was the great lesson of creation. Hashem wanted man to learn about G-d through the tending of the garden. “Hashem G-d placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.( Genesis 2:15)".

 In fact rain would not fall until man was created; "When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for Hashem G-d had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground,"( Genesis 2:5). 

Yet man chose to reach for the fruits rather than learn the lesson of "Journey, Effort and Gratitude".

This then is the reason the celebration of the First Fruits were carried out with such pomp and circumstance. The declaration of the farmers which all the Jewish people echo and recite at each Passover Seder affirms the miraculous journey of our people as well as the journey of each of us in our own lives.

We bring the first fruits of all of our efforts and acknowledge our gratitude for the divine intervention in those efforts. We acknowledge the roots and history of the journey that has brought us to this place and we bring our gifts with joy and gratitude.

It is then after we connect and are empowered by the awareness of "Journey, Effort and Gratitude" that we can fulfil the verse  of Hashem’s promise;

" And you shall rejoice in all the good which Hashem  your G-d  has given unto you, and unto your house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is in the midst of you. ( Devarim 26:11).

That acknowledgement in the farmer’s life , as it is  similarly in our own personal journey is then the source of Divinely inspired Joy;

" And you shall rejoice in all the good which Hashem  your G-d  has given unto you."

Lerefuat Kol HaPtzuim ve Hacholim

Lerefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved and Yehudit bat Chaya Esther