The most hallowed memories of youth are invariably filled with firsts: your first bicycle, first car, first paycheck. As we travel the road of life, those firsts serve as milestones of joy and sometimes heartache like a child taking his first step or the loss of a loved one.
In this week’s Torah portion we also are presented with a commandment that enjoins us to bring the first of our fruits to the temple and offer them as a sign of gratitude for the divine bounty bestowed upon us.
Let us see if we can delve into some of the esoteric elements of this particular commandment.
To be a farmer is a difficult task. He must live through a painstaking process wrought with complications. To plow, to plant, to water, to battle disease and parasites — only to be at the mercy of the vicissitudes of weather.
Then as dawn breaks, off in the distance, our farmer can see a touch of color brighten the horizon. Finally all of his labor and doubt blossoms into coveted fruit. Why is it necessary for this hardworking individual to relinquish all of his toil?
The Baal Haturim offers a penetrating comment that reveals an entirely different dimension to the mitzvah of Bikkurim — every letter of the alphabet appears in the Torah section of Bikkurim except for the letter samech. That letter is concealed in the word teneh, which means “basket.”The numerical value of teneh is 60, which equals the same numerical value of the letter samech.
Let us read the Torah mystically — take the fruits of your labor and place it within the letter samech. The letter samech is closed and circular. This represents the physical dimensions of life, ever revolving cycles that seem to exist independently of a creator.
We live life much like that farmer. We invest time, talent and assets into the cycles of life. The Torah teaches us that in order to taste the essence of life we must elevate all of these samechs.
The weeks preceding the High Holidays are a time of introspection and also especially propitious for self-development.
Let us ponder the following question: Are we imprisoned within a labyrinth of the banal, constantly investing our life-force into a basket that remains
fixed to the ground?
Let us elevate the basket of life and walk to the place that transcends time and place. The Talmud teaches us that the sound of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah is akin to standing within the holy of holies. This year let us gather our “firsts” and “lasts,” and hoist them high as the sound of the shofar elevates our lives to the source of our existence. JN
Rabbi Shafir Roizman grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was recently installed as rabbi of the Ohr Hatorah Congregation in Phoenix.