Saturday 9 September 2017 Elul 18 5777
Deut. 26:1-29:9 (29:8 in TaNaCH); Isaiah 60:1-22; Rev. 21:10-27/Acts 16-18
"And He brought us to this place and He gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey" (Deuteronomy 26:9).
Rashi, the great commentator, explains that "this place" refers to the Bait Hamikdosh, the Temple in Jerusalem. The question arises: Why isn't the order the other way around? Since the Israelites entered the Land of Israel much before they built the Temple, the land should be mentioned first!
Rabbi Naftoli Tzvi Berlin of Volozhin who was known by the acronym Netziv explains that the Bait Hamikdosh was a spiritual benefit and the Land of Israel was a physical benefit. When we express our gratitude to the Almighty we should do so in the order of importance of the things for which we are grateful. Therefore, we thank Him for our spiritual blessings before our material ones.
This, too, should be our order of priorities in our thinking and behaviour. Our spiritual needs should be uppermost in our minds. This will have practical ramifications should there be a conflict between our spiritual and material well-being.
In Rom 15:25-29, we see that Sha’ul echoes this understanding:
26 For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.
27 They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jewish peoples' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jewish people to share with them their material blessings.
28 So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way.
And then, we read verse 10 in our parasha:
"And now I brought the first fruit of the Land which the Almighty gave me, and you shall place it before the Almighty, your God, and you shall bow down before the Almighty, your God" (Deut 26:10).
Now, we are instructed to bow down in worship:
6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
7 For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand.
And yet, this is the only time we are commanded to bow down when fulfilling a mitzvah. Why is it mentioned here in the bringing of the first fruits?
Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz teaches us that the whole concept of bringing the first fruits to the Temple is to show gratitude to the Almighty for all that He has given. It is an expression of our awareness that everything we have is a gift from above.
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
Therefore, the Torah mentions that we bow down to the Almighty, which symbolizes our total submission to His will because all that we have is from Him. This applies to our material as well as our intellectual achievements. Just be grateful or, as Paul taught ‘in all things, give thanks’ (1 Thess 5:18). Instead of comllaining about what we don’t have, let us give thanks for what we DO have? We have the assurance of eternity! Isn’t that sufficient a reason to bow down and give thanks?