Gratitude to the One Who Gives

This week’s parasha – Ki Tavo – talks of the first fruits / Bikurim. Farmers bring the first fruits that blossom – of the 7 species special to Eretz Yisrael / the Land of Israel – to the Beit HaMikdash / the Holy Temple in Yerushalayim / Jerusalem.

He says a text and he gives the fruits to the Cohen. The rich people who would bring fancy baskets of gold and silver – the Cohen would return the basket. Yet the Cohen would not return the baskets – made of reeds – of the poor people. Why?

  1. The poor people worked hard to make the basket – Hash-m appreciates the hard work of the common man for a Mitzvah.
  2. The poor people – may have put the best fruits on top and the lesser quality fruits on the bottom – thus we didn’t want to embarrass him by taking out the fruits.
  3. The Cohen was sending a message that I’ll take this basket – so that, with the help of G-d – you will return next year with a gold basket.

The Mitzvah of first fruits is to show that all that we have we owe our first and foremost gratitude to Hash-m. We also do the redemption of first born boys and first born animals showing our gratitude that all we have is a Gift from G-d.

A Tale of Two Tailors

The King’s Banquet

Once upon a Time two Jewish tailors were having a hard time making a living in their town. Their solution : to go from town to town searching for tailoring jobs. They were traveling for several years. They arrived at a town and saw the governor of the town was troubled. They asked what is bothering you. He replied – he needed to prepare clothing for royal family for the king’s banquet and he could not find qualified tailors.

Family in Jail

“We could do the job!” they assured him. He tested them – finding that they were qualified. After about a year the king had his banquet and was very satisfied with the clothing. The king thanked the tailors and gave them a large sum of money. The queen whispered to the king – “should we tell them about the Jewish family is in prison because they did not pay their taxes?” The king mentioned it to them. They asked how much money do they owe. He said “300 Gold Rubles.”

Redeeming Captives / Pidyon Shevuim

One tailor said to the other – let’s do the mitzvah / commandment of redeeming captives. The other tailor replied “I have to bring money back to my family.” The tailor who suggested helping the family counted his money he earned and found he had just enough to redeem the family.

The family was so thankful. The praised him and blessed him.

The Rich gets Richer – the Poor Remains Poor

The tailors returned to their town. One with much money –  the other poor. The poor person came home and told his wife of the story. The man was forced to go from door to door to ask for money to support his family. The other tailor became wealthy.

Discovering a Concealed Blessing

Once a person wanted to give him a valuable coin. He asked him what will you give me in return? The poor man said I’ll give you a blessing. The man needed a blessing because he had an important meeting with wealthy people that evening for a business deal. That evening he noticed that the deal went unusually smoothly.

He thereafter – searched for this poor man before doing a business deal to receive a blessing.

The Power of Blessing

People found out his power of blessing. They started lining up to receive a blessing. The Baal Shem Tov – a great Rabbi – asked his students to ask the man to come to him to talk. At the meeting – he inquired what special deed he did that gave him this power of blessing. He said I don’t know. Finally the Baal Shem Tov told him – the fact that he redeemed the Jewish family – Hash-m gave him the power to bless others and have the prayers readily answered.

I heard this story from Moshe – with whom I learn Torah. He told me he heard it in French from Rabbi Avi Assouline.

We think that blessings are only those that give us material benefit – really there are many blessings for which we can be thankful – good health, children, healing, wisdom, the ability to give blessings, etc.

At times we receive blessings – but we take them for granted. Or someone does something good for us and thank the other profusely – but do not take into account that it was Hash-m who ordained that we should recieve the blessing. The person who helped us get a job or gave us that business deal – was an agent of Hash-m. So really we should first thank Hash-m then thank the person who was the agent.

Malki Tzedek / Shem made that mistake. We can learn from him to give the thanks in the proper order. First thank G-d – then thank the agent.

I think that thanking G-d is appropriate at a personal event – like a Brit / Bris / Circumcision, a Bar Mitzvah or a Wedding. I thought it might be proper for a person to take upon themselves a new mitzvah – as a thanks for G-d that he allowed us to have a new child, to marry off a child, etc.