In this week’s Torah portion, Moses speaks to the Israelites about what they must do once they settle in the land of Israel. He instructs them to take the first fruits that grow on the trees of their orchards to the Temple in Jerusalem and offer them as a gift to G-d. This offering would become a formalized way for the Israelites to give thanks for the blessings in their lives. Despite the incredible hardships that the Israelites faced upon entering the land of Israel and the challenges they experienced as they established their community – the ritual of the first fruits reminded them that there are always blessings to be thankful for.
As we prepare to enter a new year, we need to offer our “first fruits” and give thanks for the blessings in our lives. For so many of us, this has been a year of challenge, stress and even heartache. But, in the mess that was the Jewish year 5773, there were blessings. There were simple moments which brought you comfort, insight or maybe even joy. There were people who lifted you up and there were incredible things – a sunset, a song, a place – that inspired you. Now is the time to reflect upon these blessings for they are what sustained us this year. They are our first fruits – symbols that life remains incredible despite all the challenges we face – and we must find it in ourselves to acknowledge our first fruits give thanks for them.
On Saturday evening, August 31 at 8:00PM, we will gather for Selichot, the holiday that marks the beginning of the High Holy Day period. I invite you to bring your first fruits with you to this moving service. I have asked a few members of the Ramat Shalom family to share their first fruits – their blessings – with us next Saturday evening. And I invite all of you to join them as we give thanks for our blessings. Even the simplest of blessings is worth giving thanks for. Please, take the time to reflect upon the blessings of 5773 and join us on August 31.