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    Giving back to God – Ki Tavo

    Bringing some of the first fruits to the kohen as a mark of having entered the Promised Land is the theme of the opening section of the sidra.

    Behind the law of the first fruits is a fundamental principle of Jewish ethics, that human being should have a sense of gratitude and appreciation.

    God has brought us into the land – therefore our blessings come from Him and should be acknowledged. God has protected us from the harshness of the elements – therefore our safety and security are Divine boons and should be appreciated.

    That is one of the lessons we learn from the first fruits.

    Perhaps you will say that it is natural to be grateful and it was hardly necessary for the Torah to command it. But all too often it seems more natural for a person not to show gratitude, but to take everything for granted, to think the world owes them a living, and to refuse to say even a simple thank you, either to God or to other people.

    Hence an instructive piece of rabbinic commentary. We are told in the Psalms, “The earth is the Lord’s” (24:1), but a different Psalm says, “The heavens are the Lord’s heavens but the earth He has given to the children of man” (115:16).

    The rabbis explain the contradiction: when a person shows gratitude for God’s bounties and says a b’rachah, that is when, as it were, the earth is ours to enjoy; but when a person who enjoys the bounties of the earth without acknowledging God, then the earth remains God’s property and those who fail to show gratitude are, as it were, trespassing on it.

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