Parashas Ki Savo
Thank You for Everything
"Our grapevine is beautiful Abba."
"Baruch Hashem, Avi. The Almighty has blessed us with lovely fruit this year. We must thank Him before we eat the grapes."
"Yes, we learned about that, Abba. Before eating grapes we make the blessing, 'Borei pri ha'etz' (Who has created the fruit of the tree)."
"That blessing is very important, Avi. However, there is a much greater expression of our hacoras hatov (recognizing the good done for us and being grateful) in this week's parasha."
"Are you referring to bikurim (first fruits), Abba?"
"Yes, Avi. In the times of the Beis HaMikdash, we would bring the first of our fruits of the seven species to Yerushalayim. We would give them to the Kohen. He would wave them and then place them before the mizbeach (altar). We would then express our gratitude to Hashem with the following statement. 'An Aramean (Lavan) tried to destroy my forefather (Yaakov). He descended to Mitzraim and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation - great, strong, and numerous. The Mitzrim mistreated us and afflicted us, and placed hard labor upon us. Then we cried out to Hashem, the G-d of our forefathers, and Hashem heard our voice and saw our affliction, our struggle, and our oppression. Hashem took us out of Mitzraim with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm, with great fear, with signs and wonders. He brought us to this place, and He gave us this Land, flowing with milk and honey. And now, behold! I have brought the first fruit of the land that You have given me, O Hashem!' (Devarim 26:5-10)."
"That is quite a declaration, Abba. Why is all of this necessary? Isn't it just enough to thank Hashem for the first fruits?"
"Apparently not, Avi. To begin to understand this, we must realize that hacoras hatov - recognizing the good done for us and being grateful - is a foundation of Avodas Hashem (Service to The Creator). We can only properly serve Him when we realize how much we owe to Him. We are like a servant serving a master. The master provides food, clothing, and shelter for his servant. He takes care of all of his needs. A servant who realizes this will be overflowing with gratitude for the master. He will be only too happy to fulfill his master's will.
"This declaration describes all of the good that The Almighty has done for us. It begins when the future of Klal Yisrael was dependent upon just one person - Yaakov Avinu. Along came Lavan, who tried to destroy Yaakov, and thereby wipe the Jewish people off the face of the earth. Truthfully, he would have succeeded, were it not for Hashem's Divine Protection of our forefather. This was the start of our nation, and so the pattern has continued. We are totally at the mercy of the nations of the world, who seek to destroy us. Our only means of survival in this world is Divine Protection. He is The One Who preserved us in Mitzraim. He took us out of there, and punished our oppressors. He sustained us in the desert, and He brought us to this Land. He brought the rain that made the fruit grow. We owe every aspect of our existence to Him. This is what we must express when we bring Him our bikurim."
"I see, Abba. We may not have bikurim in our days, but we still have Avodas Hashem."
"We still serve Him like a servant to a master. Therefore, we must also strengthen our hacoras hatov to Him."
"Abba, let me first thank Him for giving me such a wonderful father, who gave me the gift of life, who takes care of all of my needs, and who teaches me how to serve Hashem."
"And let me thank Him for an equally wonderful son, who is so eager to do the will of his Creator. May you always succeed."
Kinderlach . . .
Klal Yisrael is still alive today. Baruch Hashem. He has protected and preserved us through these thousands of years of golus. None of the wars, expulsions, pogroms, blood libels, inquisitions, and holocausts could destroy us. Why? Because our Creator protected us. For this, we thank Him. We also are grateful for our day-to-day existence. He gave us a mother and father who take care of us. He gave us the grocer who brings our food to the store, the driver who takes us to school, the teachers who teach us, and the friends who learn with us. Thank every one of them! By constantly expressing your gratitude, you will ingrain the middah (character trait) of hacoras hatov in your heart. Express your hacoras hatov to Hashem when you pray and recite blessings. When you realize how much you owe Him, you will come to serve Him with a lev shalem (complete heart). Kinderlach, may you all succeed at becoming wonderful ovdei (servants of) Hashem!
"This day you have become a nation" (Devarim 27:9). What national event happened on that day? We did not enter the Land of Israel. We did not begin speaking our own language. Rav Shimshon Refael Hirsch explains that the Jewish people took an oath to accept and uphold the Torah on that day. That was the beginning of our nationhood. Although we were still in the desert without a homeland, and without any visible natural means of existence, we were a nation. What unifies the Jewish nation? The acceptance and upholding of the Torah. We are now approaching Rosh Hashanah, the day in which we proclaim Hashem's sovereignty. He is the King. But there can be no King without a nation. We are his nation. But what is a nation without unity? To be the nation fitting to accept Hashem's rule, we must be unified. Rav Hirsch explains that upholding the Torah is the key to our unity. This month of Elul, is our month of preparation for Rosh Hashanah. We have the opportunity now to strengthen our national unity, to prepare ourselves to accept Hashem's rule. To do that, we mush strengthen our Torah learning and observance of mitzvos.
Kinderlach . . .
We still have over a week until Rosh Hashanah. Try to strengthen your Torah learning each day. Try to be more careful when you do mitzvos. Pray and make blessings with more kavannah (concentration). Do more chessed (acts of kindness) for people. Prepare yourselves. The King is coming.
How long does it take to understand the teachings of your Rebbe? (Rashi 29:6)
What will happen to our feet, heart, eyes, and soul in golus? (28:65)
What is always increasing in golus? (Rashi 28:67)
Will the makkos that we receive be like those of other nations? (28:59 and Rashi)
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