October 21, 2018 ~ Shabbat LEKH LEKHA. Maqam SABA.

Shabbat Ki Tabo - שבת כי תבוא

Fruits of Your Labor

ושמחת בכל הטוב - Every year right before "Finals" at the Yeshivah of Flatbush, our principal, Rabbi William Altshul, used to say: "Take a moment to think where you were a few months ago. You have all worked hard to get to this point, and now is the time for you to reap the fruits of your labor. As it says [Psalms 126:5] "Those who toil with planting will have joy in the harvest" (הזרעים בדמעה ברנה יקצרו). After each final was over, riots of celebration would fill the halls of the building as tremendous baggage was suddenly lifted from the students' shoulders. I can imagine that such was the atmosphere of joy and relief as the Israelites completed the harvest and presented their "first fruits" to the Temple. It was at this very ceremony where everyone, regardless of status, would reflect on their collective past (ארמי אבד אבי), celebrate the accomplishments of the present (ושמחת בכל הטוב), and anticipate divine generosity in the future. Beth Torah Bulletin, September 9, 2017.

Prayers in Plural

וברך את עמך את ישראל - For the tithe (מעשר) donation to the poor in the third year, the Israelite farmer declares that he has distributed his tithe to the Levite, the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow, as required. He then concludes this declaration with a prayer: "Look down from Your holy abode, from Heaven, and bless Your nation, Israel, and the ground You have given us, a land flowing of milk and honey" (Deuteronomy 26:15). By using the plural tense to conduct a prayer as opposed to the singular, the farmer is not selfishly asking for his own prosperity as an individual, but rather for the entire nation. This prayer serves as a model for how to make a request from the Almighty. By praying in plural tense, as typically prescribed in Judaism, one develops the awareness that ultimately we are all interconnected and that rather than only focusing on ones own personal needs, one should be praying for the blessings of the entire Jewish people and the entire world. Beth Torah Bulletin, September 1, 2018.


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