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Ki Savo

by Rabbi Yaakov Menken

"And you shall answer and say before HaShem your G-d, 'An Aramite [attempted to] destroy my father, and he [my father] descended to Egypt, and lived there, few in number, and he became a great, mighty, and large nation. And the Egyptians did evil to us and afflicted us, and placed hard labor upon us. And we cried out to HaShem, G-d of our fathers, and HaShem heard our voices... And HaShem took us out from Egypt... And brought us to this place, and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.'" [26:5-9]

This passage is one which we read and interpret every year as part of the Passover Haggadah - and there, it makes a great deal of sense to do so. In full, this passage describes both our exile to Egypt and our redemption at G-d's hand, through His miracles. What more appropriate reading could there be for the Haggadah of Pesach, the holiday of redemption?

But in the Torah, this appears as part of the process by which we offered Bikurim, the first fruits, in the Temple. One came, and recited this passage in the process of giving the offering. The Torah considers it of such great importance that the Rambam [Maimonides] and others list the recitation as a separate Mitzvah, which one fulfills while offering Bikurim. An offering without the declaration is not merely an "imperfectly performed" Mitzvah, which is acceptable once done - rather, one has entirely failed to perform this separate commandment! While it is surely important to recall all of HaShem's kindnesses at all times, what is the special relevance of our history to the offering of Bikurim?

When do we offer Bikurim? When things are at their best. As Rashi points out, this Mitzvah only applied once the land had been conquered. Then, the Mitzvah came at that point in the year when a farmer had put in his efforts, and was seeing his efforts "bear fruit" (please excuse the pun). This was the time when a person could sit back on his laurels, and say, "Look at what I've accomplished!"

When we are faced with a bad situation, it is easy to remember HaShem. "There are no atheists in the trenches." But when everything is good, we sit back, enjoy ourselves, and recognize no one but ourselves as responsible for our accomplishments.

Under the influence of Eastern religions and Catholicism, many people have come to believe that to be truly religious, one must live an ascetic life of poverty. Our Torah teaches a path of moderation - yes, do business, but always recognize that you are not "The master of your fate." We must recognize this truth, and how easily it can "slip our minds." Only once we declare our recognition of He Who has provided for us, can we accept all the good things in life without losing sight of our spiritual goals. Only then: "You shall rejoice in all the good which HaShem your G-d has given to you and your house..." [26:11]


Text Copyright © 1996 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.


 

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