Parshat Ki Tavo: The sweetness of community

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Rabbi Yechiel Shaffer is the rabbi of Pikesville Jewish Congregation.
Courtesy photo

By Rabbi Yechiel Shaffer

We are presented in this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo, with the mitzvah known in Hebrew as Bikkurim.


This agricultural commandment instructs the farmer to dedicate his first produce to God. After months of toiling and tilling, with the budding of the first fruit, the farmer has to recognize that no matter how much effort he puts in, regardless of any work put into cultivating this fruit, the first statement by the faithful farmer was that it would all be impossible without God.

No doubt this is a deeply gratifying and joyous moment, and the Torah insists that it must be a spiritual one, too. In Deuteronomy 26:11, the farmer is instructed to celebrate the bringing of his first fruit to Jerusalem. It is a marvelous occasion and the Torah says he should celebrate with his entire household. You can just imagine the farmer loading up all his family, his cousins, uncles and aunts in his wagon and making his way to Jerusalem with a beautiful basket of first fruits.

Rabbi Samson R. Hirsch, the famous 19th-century rabbinic leader, drives home a simple but important point. This celebration cannot happen in isolation. The farmer must be surrounded by his loved ones. Our achievements are that much sweeter when they are contextualized by faith and enveloped by family.

In light of our continued difficult COVID-19 experience, while we are living distanced from each other, we must recognize and work toward a time when we will be able to embrace family and friends once again, and we must be carried by the continued faith that God will provide us with safety and all that we need.

Rabbi Yechiel Shaffer is the rabbi of Pikesville Jewish Congregation.

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