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In Melbourne Shabbat begins Fri 10 Apr 2020 05:41 PM and ends Sat 11 Apr 2020 06:40 PM

Just because your're happy

ט"ז אלול ה' אלפים תשע"א

It doesn’t make sense. The Jews had spent 40 years in the desert hearing non-stop about how great the Land of Israel was going to be. They’d been instructed in the finer points of dozens of commandments that would only kick in once they’d crossed the border. Moshe and Yehoshua would have spent untold hours preaching, beseeching and teaching them about the opportunities that lay ahead. Just imagine the anticipation they would have felt on finally arriving in the Promised Land. Then, tell me please, why did they have to wait another 14 years to fulfil their destiny?

We’ll read this week about the bikurim first fruits offering that farmers would bring to Jerusalem in appreciation for their harvest. It’s a beautiful mitzva replete with gratitude and significance. What a lovely gesture of thanks for Hashem’s blessings and an opportunity to reflect on all the goodness that we have received.

They would travel annually to the Beis Hamikdash and there they would perform a ritual handover of a basket of fruits as part of the bikurim ceremony. The Cohen would accept the fruit and the Jews would make a formal declaration of thanks. The Torah explains that they were rejoicing with all the good that the Lord, your God, has granted you and your household. (Ki Savo 26:1)

However, they didn’t begin doing this right away. The verse states when you come into the land which the L-rd your G-d gives you for an inheritance, and you possess it and settle in it.(26:11) Only after the whole Land of Israel had been captured and then apportioned, some 14 years after first crossing the Jordan, did they begin this annual trek of gratitude.

But why wait so long? Why wait till every Jew was settled on their own homestead before offering bikurim? What about those people who received their portion in the early years, why not allow them to start saying 'thank you' to Hashem for His blessings right away?

I'm doing OK

Go back and reread the verse we quoted before: they were celebrating all the good that Hashem has granted. Tell me something; just because you’ve got your own land and have enjoyed a good harvest, can you really declare that everything is fine? What about those people who aren’t yet so blessed? There are people out there who are still homeless. You’ve been looked after, but they’re still waiting. No Jew could feel fully satisfied with his lot, when he knows others are going without.

We want to do mitzvos. We yearn to celebrate all the ceremonies and rituals that make up Judaism, with a full heart and a clear conscience. Yet, as long as others are lacking, we too are missing out.

The primary purpose of a religious Jew is to look out for the needs of others and make sure that they receive the same opportunities that we have been granted. Until every other Jew is fully taken care of, we can’t feel completely happy. Only once everyone else has received their inheritance, can we celebrate achieving perfect happiness.

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