The Torah portion, or parasha, this week is Ki Tavo and is found in Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8. In this parasha the people are reminded that, once they are settled in the land, each Israelite farmer is to bring a portion of his first fruits to the central sanctuary. Standing before the priest, he recites the declaration expressing gratitude for all the gifts God has given. In the third year of the agricultural cycle, farmers are to give the second tithe of their produce to the poor rather than bringing it to Jerusalem. Once this is done, the farmer is to recite a declaration acknowledging that he had done as God commanded. Moses reminds the Israelites that they have affirmed their covenant with God, that they have promised to obey Him, and that in return God has affirmed that Israel is His treasured people. Moses concludes by reminding the Israelites of all that God has done for them in the 40 years since He redeemed them from Egypt.
One primary theme stands out in this parasha–the importance thanking God for what we have in life. In particular, the focus is on the harvest, and dedicating the first fruits of that harvest to God. Not all of us are farmers; however, as we approach the end of this current year and enter a new year, this is a time of reflection. How has this year gone? Perhaps it has been an especially good year and we have been blessed with health, happiness, and fulfillment. Perhaps it has been one of difficult times and we have been blessed instead with strength and fortitude to handle the tough times. In either way, we have been blessed. Is it really important to remember our blessings, and to focus on the positive in our lives? In this passage, we are actually commanded to rejoice in every good thing. It is a mitzvah to rejoice and be happy. God does not need our blessings as much as God needs us to remember them. Let us be mindful of our blessings in the next couple of weeks as we prepare for the High Holy Days.