Appreciating the Gifts of the Land
Moses teaches the people what they are supposed to do with the bounty which God will give them when they enter the land. First, they are to bring their first fruits before God to the Tabernacle. There, they will be placed in a basket and laid before the altar. The farmer must proclaim his recognition that his produce is a gift from the God who took the people out of Egypt and brought them to the Promised Land. The farmer may then partake of these fruits in Jerusalem, celebrating with his family and others.
This declaration is the basis of the readings of the annual Passover seder, the traditional meal held on the first evening of the holiday. From these few verses, the sages expound the whole story of the Exodus from Egypt. One line in particular stands out. As the Israel Bible points out, the word vayareiu, which indicates the Egyptians treated the Israelites very badly, has the same letters as the Hebrew word for friendship, reiut. The Torah is thus subtly hinting that the Egyptians began their relationship with the Israelites through overtures of friendship. Only after time had passed did the anti-Semitism rear its head. This pattern has repeated itself throughout history, with nation after nation inviting the Jews in, then turning against them. Only the State of Israel, the Jewish homeland, can guarantee a safe haven for Jews for eternity.
At the end of the third year of each cycle, after tithing his produce, the farmer has an additional proclamation to make. He must declare that he has not neglected any of his tithes, and that he has distributed them in accordance with God’s command. He then asks for God’s continued blessings for himself and the entire nation.
Virtual Classroom Discussion
Why do you think the declaration over the first fruits begins with the history of the nation of Israel, starting with Jacob (the wandering Aramean, verse 5)?