Who Gets First?
By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim
Parshat Ki Tavo begins with the Mitzvah of bringing one’s first fruits to the Beit Hamikdash(Temple) in Jerusalem. The Sefer Hachinuch writes the following concerning this Mitzvah: “…in order to put the word of God, may He be blessed, ‘at the top of our joy,’ and so that we remember and know that it is from Him, blessed be He, that all of the blessings of the world come to us. Therefore, we were commanded to bring the first fruit that ripens in the trees to those that serve His house. And through the remembering, the acceptance of His kingdom, and giving thanks before Him for the fruits and the rest of all of the good which comes from Him, we will be fit for blessing and our fruits will be blessed.”
The farmer would toil the land, ploughing, planting, watering, and protecting the land from pests and wild animals. One’s natural tendency would be to savor and enjoy the first fruits of one’s labor—the first evidence of success from one’s handiwork. The Torah commands us to dedicate these first fruits to God, expressing our joy and appreciation to God, rather than engaging in mere personal celebration of the flesh. Similarly, the produce grown in the Land of Israel must first be tithed before the produce is consumed.
I would suggest this teaches us that it is, indeed, praiseworthy to give our monetary charitable tithings immediately upon earning the fruits (financial gain) of our labor. Additionally, I think that, perhaps, there is a general life question that this Mitzvah poses which is particularly appropriate before Rosh Hashanah: Who do we give the best of our resources to? Do we give our most productive times of our day to prayer, Torah learning, and loving kindness? Or do we simply fit these activities into our lives in an ad hoc manner? If the latter has been our approach thus far, let us recommit to giving our best energies to serving and thanking God for our energy and for all our blessings. May we merit to be inscribed for a year of blessing, health, and success.