dvar for parashas Ki Savo 5781
“And thou shalt speak and say before the L-RD thy G-d: ‘A wandering Aramean was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there, few in number; and he became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous.” – Deuteronomy 26:5, JPS 1917 Tanach
“He begins with shame and concludes with praise.”
– Jerusalem Talmud Pesachim 70a
Jacob was a wandering Aramean (inasmuch that he spent twenty years serving his Uncle Laban in Aramea). According to the declaration made when the Bikurim (first fruits) were brought by an Israelite to the Kohein, the national narrative begins with Jacob, homeless and peniless (Ibn Ezra). Our humble beginnings as a people begin in shame; yet, they end in praise (see above). As a people, B’nei Yisrael became a nation, after being freed from slavery in Egypt.
We are like unto Jacob; If we are able to recognize our own “spiritual poverty,” then we would aspire towards the freedom from the shackles of our yetzer hara (evil inclination). In like manner that B’nei Yisrael received the Torah at Sinai, gaining true freedom through the commandments, we may do the same by following a life of restraint, moderation, and righteousness, with help from the L-RD. We may aspire towards greater heights, when we live in accordance with the guidelines given to us at Sinai.
When bringing the first fruits of the land as an offering to the Kohein, the declaration made by each individual Israelite is meant to remind the person bringing the offering of all that there is to be thankful for, in addition to the fruits of the land. “A land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey” (Deuteronomy 8:8, JPS 1917 Tanach). The material blessings in our own lives are best enjoyed with the acknowledgment of the L-RD’s influence. Whether we are able to clearly see His hand at work in our lives or not, we should always give thanks.
“And now, behold, I have brought the first of the fruit of the land, which Thou, O L-RD, hast given me.’ And thou shalt set it down before the L-RD thy G-d, and worship before the L-RD thy G-d. And thou shalt rejoice in all the good which the L-RD thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thy house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is in the midst of thee.”
– Deuteronomy 26:10-11, JPS 1917 Tanach