Thursday, September 6, 2012
Tzedakah and Appreciating G-d's Kindness
Entering Deeper and Deeper
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By Eli Touger
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IX, pgs. 152ff, 289;
Vol. XIX, p. 245ff;
Shabbos Parshas Ki Savo 5750;
Sefer HaSichos 5748, p. 634ff;
Sefer HaSichos 5751, p. 810ff
Our Sages teach:1 "A person who gives a coin to a poor person is granted six blessings; one who gratifies him is blessed elevenfold." Now, gratifying does not necessarily mean giving more money. It means giving a positive feeling, showing the recipient that you care about him, and that he means something to you. When one so invests himself in another person, putting enough of himself into the stranger that the person feels appreciated, he has given something far greater than money. And so he receives a more ample blessing from G-d.
This leads to a deeper concept: Appreciation stems from involvement; the deeper the relationship between people, the more one appreciates the uniqueness of the other. When a person appreciates a colleague, he is motivated to do whatever he can for that other person.
Appreciating G-d's Kindness
These concepts apply, not only to our relationships with our fellow man, but also to our relationship with G-d.
One of the major thrusts in Judaism is hakaras hatov, appreciation of the good which G-d constantly bestows upon us. And as with appreciation of our fellow man, the emphasis is on appreciating not only the material dimension of G-d's kindness, but also the love and care which He showers on every person.2
In this vein, we can understand the sequence of our Torah reading, Parshas Ki Savo. The reading begins by describing the mitzvah of bikkurim,3 the first fruits which the Jews would bring to the Beis HaMikdash, and shortly afterwards speaks of a covenant concerning the entire Torah.4
What is the connection between these subjects?
The mitzvah of bikkurim was instituted to show that our gratitude for the good G-d has granted us,5 and to display our appreciation to Him for "granting us all the blessings of this world."6 And this appreciation is not expressed merely by words of thanks, but through deed. A person would select his first fruits, and make a special journey to bring them to Jerusalem to show his thanks to G-d. Moreover, the first fruits would thereby become consecrated, indicating that a lasting connection to G-d's holiness had been established.
Herein lies the connection to the entire Torah. For in a larger sense, every aspect of a person's life can become bikkurim an expression of thanks to G-d for His goodness. At every moment, a person is standing before G-d and he can demonstrate that all of existence shares a bond with Him.
More than Just a Physical Land
As a preparation for the mitzvah of bikkurim, the Torah tells us:7 Ki savo el haeretz, "And when you will enter the land that G-d. is giving you as a heritage." The ability to bring bikkurim depends on entering Eretz Yisrael , the land of which it is said,8 "the eyes of G-d, your L-rd, are upon it from the beginning of the year until the end of the year."
As a person enters Eretz Yisrael and allows Eretz Yisrael to enter him his sensitivity is heightened to the extent that he is able to perform the spiritual service of bikkurim, and indeed, have this mode of service come to characterize his approach to the Torah and its mitzvos as a whole
A Complete Entry
A deeper understanding of the above concepts can be grasped by considering the halachic implications of the word savo, meaning "enter." Our Sages explain that this word implies coming in entirely, without any portion of the body remaining outside. For example, with regard to the contracting of impurity from a house plagued by tzaraas, (the discoloration associated with leprosy), it is written:9 "One who enters the house. will become impure." On this basis, our Sages rule10 that a person's entire body must enter the stricken house before he is rendered impure.
Similarly, with regard to the purification of utensils in a mikveh, it is written:11 "It will enter the water. and become purified." This prooftext is interpreted to mean that the entire utensil must be submerged at one time. The same law applies with regard to a person; one's entire body must enter the mikveh. If even one hair remains above the water, the immersion is ineffective. 11. Leviticus 11:32.
In this vein, ki savo entering Eretz Yisrael to bring the first fruits means coming fully into the Land. Therefore the verse mentions not only entering Eretz Yisrael, but also that "you will take it as an inheritance, and you will settle it." For until the Jews took Eretz Yisrael as a heritage, and settled the land, their "entrance" was not complete. Only after they had settled the land could the atmosphere of Eretz Yisrael penetrate their thinking processes sufficiently to motivate the appreciation expressed by the bringing of bikkurim.12 12. When one of the Tzemach Tzedek's chassidim asked for his blessings to make aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, the Tzemach Tzedek told him: "Make Eretz Yisrael here," i.e., fill your immediate environment with the holiness of Eretz Yisrael (Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe Rayatz, Vol. I, p. 485). Thus in an extended sense, the above concepts have significance beyond the geographic boundaries of Eretz Yisrael.
The Whole and Its Parts
The above discussion also enables us to understand a difference of opinion among our Sages regarding the point in time at which the Jews became obligated to bring bikkurim. The Sifri, in its exegesis of the phrase "And when you will enter the land," states that the Jews were required to bring the first fruits immediately. As soon as an individual received his own portion of the Land as a heritage, states the Sifri , he was required to bring the first fruits. The Talmud,13 however, states that the obligation to bring the first fruits did not come into force until after the completion of the 14 years during which the Jews conquered Eretz Yisrael and divided it among the 12 tribes.13. Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin 37b; Jerusalem Talmud, Shevi'is, 6:1.
The difference between these two approaches is the extent of entry which is required. The Sifri maintains that as soon as each individual receives his portion of Eretz Yisrael, his entry into the Land is complete, and he is required to bring his offering. The Sages of the Talmud, by contrast, maintain that until the entire Jewish people take possession of Eretz Yisrael, no individual's entry is complete. Only after every member of the people is settled in his home can any individual be considered to have entered Eretz Yisrael in the full sense.
Two Levels of Thanksgiving
Alternatively, it can be explained that these two opinions refer to two phases in the expression of our appreciation to G-d. To cite a parallel in our daily service: As soon as we arise, we begin our day with Modeh Ani the statement of thanksgiving to G-d for returning our souls from the "small death" of sleep.14 14. Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 6.
This expression of gratitude is natural and spontaneous, emanating from the essence of the soul. Nevertheless, it is underdeveloped, for it has not been cultivated by thought.
In our prayers, which culminate with the Modim blessing of the Shemoneh Esreh,15 15. Ibid., p. 58.
we offer a more complete expression of thanks. The soul's intuitive feelings of gratitude are enhanced by our prayerful, conscious meditation on the manifold blessings we enjoy.
Similarly, with regard to the obligation to bring bikkurim, entering Eretz Yisrael means going deeper and deeper into the spiritual dimensions of the Land, until one's appreciation of G-d's kindness is all-encompassing. This cannot be done immediately, but rather requires a long-term commitment to growth and development.
Looking Forward to Entering Eretz Yisrael
Moshe gave the Jews the promise of Ki Savo - that they would enter Eretz Yisrael while they were still in the desert. This phrase serves as the name of the entire Torah reading, for the promise that we will enter Eretz Yisrael is sufficient to inspire a commitment to observe all the mitzvos mentioned in the reading.
Similar concepts apply today. For we have been given the promise that we will soon "enter the land that G-d. is giving you as a heritage" led by Mashiach. The awareness of this promise should inspire a commitment strong enough to overcome the remaining challenges of Exile. And this will lead to the time when we will again bring our first fruits as offerings to G-d in the Beis HaMikdash, thanking Him for all His kindness.
1. Bava Basra 9b.
2. In this context, there is a connection with the month of Elul, in which Parshas Ki Savo is always read. For Elul is associated with the verse "I am my Beloved's and My Beloved is mine" (see Timeless Patterns in Time, Vol. II, p. 153), emphasizing the love between G-d and mankind.
3. Deuteronomy 26:1-11.
4. Op. cit.: 16ff.
5. Rashi, gloss to Deuteronomy 26:3.
6. Sefer HaChinuch, mitzvah 606.
7. Deuteronomy 26:1.
8. Deuteronomy 11:12.
9. Leviticus 14:46.
10. Chulin 33b. See Tosafos, entry Dicolei.
11. Leviticus 11:32.
12. When one of the Tzemach Tzedek's chassidim asked for his blessings to make aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, the Tzemach Tzedek told him: "Make Eretz Yisrael here," i.e., fill your immediate environment with the holiness of Eretz Yisrael (Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe Rayatz, Vol. I, p. 485). Thus in an extended sense, the above concepts have significance beyond the geographic boundaries of Eretz Yisrael.
13. Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin 37b; Jerusalem Talmud, Shevi'is, 6:1.
14. Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 6.
15. Ibid., p. 58.