While Ki Tavo contains some significant laws regarding grown produce in the land of Israel, it also has some important reminders and consequences for the lack of Torah observance. The ‘Tochacha’ or rebuke is Moshe’s stark message to his people, warning them to maintain their commitment and their faith.
A fascinating section reveals the mitzvah of Bikkurim. The Torah teaches us that in order to show our gratitude to God, we must bring our first ripened fruits to Jerusalem, more specifically the Temple. After a lot of intense, hard labour yielding precious fruits to sustain us, we learn that before taking personal benefit we must thank God for blessing us with the ability to create such produce.
This mitzvah has significant prominence as it underlies the principal of gratitude. This is a fundamental tenet on which our religion is based, proven in our very name. The word Jew in Hebrew is Yehudi, and this word comes from the word to ‘thank.’ We are a nation who gives thanks – thanks most importantly to God for creating and sustaining us, but also built into our nature is a fundamental need to thank each other – to show gratitude in all we do.
Moshe himself teaches us this important lesson when serving as a messenger of God during the plagues in Egypt. To create blood in the Nile for the first plague his staff would be thrust into the water, but he had to hand his staff to his brother Aaron to perform this task. Moshe had so much Hakarat Hatov (sincere appreciation) for the very river that hid him as a baby, consequently saving his life, that he could not bring himself to strike the water. Due to his deep rooted gratitude, he was simply unable to bring himself to hit the very water that had protected him. Our sages teach us that, since Moshe showed such a high level of appreciation for an inanimate object, how much more so we need to live a life of appreciation for what others do for us.
In the weeks leading up to the Days of Awe there are many themes for us to contemplate, and on so many levels we need to endeavour to find opportunities to grow. Of course, we all must feel a sense of immense gratitude for the blessings we live with daily, but it is also incumbent upon us all to express this to those around us. Just like we are commanded to first thank God for the fruits before we eat them, so too do we need to show appreciation to others before and after we derive the benefit of their actions. When we say thank you to another, it is not just a word we say in conversation, it should be pause or a subtle moment in order to acknowledge that ‘you did something for me’ – I am but one person and in life we must all work together to help each other live prosperous and fulfilled lives.