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Sunday, February 5, 2023 - 14 Shevat 5783
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Showing Gratitude
Last week we celebrated Shavuot, also known as the “Holiday of Bikkurim,” after the mitzvah of bringing the first fruits to Jerusalem as gifts for the Kohanim. This Shabbat we read the portion of Naso, which also contains an allusion to the mitzvah of bikkurim: “Every offering of all the children of Israel's holy things which is brought to the kohen, shall be his” (Bamidbar 5:9). Our sages explain that this verse refers to the mitzvah of bikkurim. We set aside our first and finest fruits as a gift to G-d, and we bring them with great ceremony and joy to Jerusalem to present to the Kohen.

The underlying theme of the mitzvah of bikkurim is gratitude. When a farmer yields a good crop his first instinct is to turn to G-d and thank Him for His help in producing this bounty. With this act we acknowledge that despite the effort and expertise that may have gone into raising the fruits, all is in G-d’s hands and belongs to Him. We dedicate our first and finest to Him as a gift.


The mitzvah of bikkurim is just one of a long list of mitzvot that accompany us throughout life and accustom us to setting aside part of our possessions to G-d, either through giving them to a Kohen or distributing them to the needy. These mitzvot include terumah and maaser (tithing), leaving the ends of the field and forgotten bundles for the poor, giving charity and many others.

Thousands of years before modern Socialism was invented, the Torah laid out for us a blueprint for life based on interdependence and strong communal ties. The Torah does not leave it up to our conscience and goodwill. Rather, we are obligated to share of our belongings with the needy, as the verse states, “

We may think that some people are rich because they worked harder or somehow were more deserving than the poor. The Torah approach is completely different. G-d grants certain people the gift of wealth for the express purpose of helping the needy in our midst. G-d makes certain people needy only to give the rest of us the opportunity to give tzedakah. G-d could have seen to it that we would all have equal assets and opportunities. But that was not His desire. He wanted us to learn to humbly thank G-d for His blessings and acknowledge that He is the source of all wealth. It is up to us to use the possessions He gave us in a just and proper way.


In Hebrew, the word for charity is tzedakah—righteousness. One who gives of his possession to tzedakah is not just being generous. It is the right thing to do. When we share our wealth with others we are fulfilling the purpose for which G-d gave us His blessings in the first place. He could just as easily take away those gifts and give them to someone else He finds worthy.

When we give our money to tzedakah, we elevate not only that sum but all our possessions, our business, or labor. All the work we put in to earning that money becomes transformed to holiness.

Tzedakah also hastens the redemption. When Moshiach comes the world will reach its ultimate state of perfection. All material goods will be freely available as dust, as Maimonides describes. Still, the mitzvah of tzedakah will continue—in a different form, perhaps, since nobody will be poor. Still there will be ample opportunities to give and share with others.

We can begin to live in the spirit of Moshiach by internalizing this principle. Our money was entrusted to us by G-d to invest it properly—in mitzvot. Then G-d enters into partnership with us which yields endless profit. Who could resist such a deal?


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