By Shalom Olensky
This week in the Torah:
First, the commandment to bring one’s harvest’s first fruits to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Then, a lengthy discussion (and warning) of the importance of G-d’s covenant with the Jews for keeping the commandments of all the Torah.
What is the connection, and the reason for the juxtaposition, of a particular Mitzvah, the Mitzvah of the first fruits, with the following lengthy discussion of the importance of the Torah as a whole?
The meaning of bringing one’s first fruits to the Temple is to show one’s gratitude to G-d for all of one’s belongings. However, unlike other Torah ways of showing one’s gratitude to G-d, done mainly through thought and speech in prayer and the like, the commandment of the first fruits incorporates one’s faculty of deed into the display of gratitude. Indeed not just the physical action of the body, rather, it also involves the physical objects of his possessions.
The reason why such a physical gratitude, and by donating the first of one’s physical belongings, is connected to the concept of one’s first fruits, is because the Jews, each and all Jews, are the “first fruits” of G-d’s world. This means that the Jews are the most valuable thing to G-d and precede everything (“first fruits”).
(This is not to be taken as egotism, G-d forbid, for, on the contrary, being so precious in G-d’s eyes puts a great responsibility on all of us)
In the language of the Zohar, “the Jews and G-d are one.” Hence the “precedence” of the Jews. For just as G-d Himself precedes everything, hence the Jews who are one with Him, are also called “first.”
It is because of this supreme importance to G-d, that all of a Jew’s belongings, down to the very last detail, are important. Hence, the gratefulness a Jew must have and display to G-d, involves his physical being and belongings as well.
Because this understanding of the great value of Jews touches the very core of their character and their relationship to G-d expressed in G-d’s Torah, it is understandable that the commandment regarding the “first fruits” is deeply connected with the covenant between the Jews and G-d over the whole Torah.
The fact that the Jews are so precious in G-d’s eyes, is an appropriate preface for the days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur etc. which are to follow. By knowing that G-d cherishes us so, we can be confident that G-d Almighty will surely grant us all to be inscribed and sealed in the book of life for a good and sweet year.
(Based on Sefer HaSichos—5751, Ki Savo)