Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller
This week’s parsha opens with the mitzvah of Bikurim, the obligation to present our first produce of the the land as a gift to Hashem in the Bais HaMikdash. Rashi, at the beginning of Beraishis, quotes a Midrash Rabbah that the mitzvah of Bikurim is the reason that Hashem created the heavens and the earth. What is so monumental about this mitzvah of expressing gratitude that it is the reason for creating the whole world?
The mitzvah of Bikurim frames the relationship between man’s efforts and his attributing his successes to himself. It is easy to attribute blessings to Hashem when we haven’t worked hard to gain that success. If a person buys a lottery ticket and wins, he will be immensely grateful to Hashem because it is obvious that the winnings are not a result of human effort or wisdom. However, if one works hard and sees great success, it is a big challenge to accept that Hashem is the one who brought that success, and it is simply that He wants us to put in the effort. This is the idea of Bikurim, that the farmer who worked hard to grow produce acknowledges that this is all a result of Hashem’s blessing.
This might almost seem unfair, but in reality, this is a source of great happiness in life. When a person sees blessing in life, he is joyful. If he views life as a quid pro quo, you get what you invest, that will grind him down. There are so many blessings and free gifts we receive from Hashem if we care to focus on them, and when we do, we are inspired, grateful and happy.
Rabbi Mordechai Gifter, the Rosh HaYeshiva of Telshe in Cleveland, asked , “Why does the Torah instruct us to rejoice with all of the good that Hashem has given us? Isn’t rejoicing the natural response to having blessings?” He answers that in actuality man has the ability to disregard all of the goodness that Hashem has given him and to focus on the small frustrations and disappointments. This can remove all the joy out of life and out of our service of Hashem. The Torah insists that we must rejoice with all of the goodness and recognize that it is from Hashem.
This lesson is very relevant as we prepare to begin a new year and to ask Hashem for a year full of blessings. We must reflect upon ourselves and ask if we have “rejoiced with all of the good” we received previously and has that caused us to serve Hashem with joy and enthusiasm. This will give us the right to request a blessed and fulfilling new year.