Parashas Ki Savo 5779 -Gratefulness the recipe for Success Ingratitude the recipe for failure

In this Parasha, Moshe concludes the transmission of the 613 Mitzvot and begins the final section of Deuteronomy, Moshe’s farewell to his people. He places before them possible blessings and curses, and in broad strokes depicts what will occur if they fulfill the Torah and if they do not. The Parasha starts by ordering us the Mitzva of Bikurim. This Mitzva which only applies in Eretz Yisrael consisted of a long procedure: Before the harvest, a person would enter his field and find the first fruits on his trees. The natural first reaction is to pick and eat it, however the Torah requires us to control our desires and tie a red string around it as a reminder. When the fruits are ripe, the farmer gathers all the first fruits into a basket and travels to Jerusalem to present them to the Kohanim. The Mishnah describes the procession of Jews bearing their first fruits on the backs of the oxen, all ornamented for the occasion. As the people of every town would arrive in Jerusalem, the locals would come out to greet them: “Welcome pilgrims from this and that town!” They would then gather at the head of the Temple Mount and each landowner would transport his fruit basket up the mountain on his shoulders (including the king of Israel) – and present it to the Kohanim. At the time the First Fruit was presented to the Kohen, a proclamation was required from the landowner. It basically was a short synopsis of Jewish history summarizing the slavery and Exodus from Egypt. We recall every detail of Jewish suffering, and therefore appreciate all the more so, that we are in our own land and can bring the first fruits.
The Pasuk says: “You shall take some of every first fruit of the soil, which you harvest from the land that Hashem is giving you”. “You shall go to the Kohen in charge at the current time and say to him, “I acknowledge this day before Hashem that I have entered the land that Hashem swore to our fathers to give us.”
There are some difficulties with the above proclamation: the Pasuk says “which you harvest from the land Hashem is giving you”, it should have said “from the land
Hashem has given me”, as if he didn’t own it he wouldn’t be liable to bring the Bikurim. The second Pasuk’s language is also difficult “the Kohen in charge at the current time”. So why mentioning “at the current time”, it’s superfluous as it can only be brought to Kohanim officiating in the Beth Hamikdash? Also, why is the Mitzva of Bikurim is mentioned right after the Mitzva of remembering of Amalek? What’s the connection between them?
Rashi explains that the entire procedure was to show Hashem that we’re not ungrateful. Just the opposite, we’re grateful for everything He gave us; the land and the fruits. Though, if that was the intention, Chazal already instituted to say a blessing before and after eating, as a mark that everything we consume belongs to Hashem. So, why are the Bikurim requiring such a lengthy and arduous process? Behold, Chazal have already added a special blessing for “new fruits”. We recite “shechiyanu vikiyemanu” prior to eating fruits from a new harvest, why isn’t this a mark of gratitude?
The Zohar1 teaches us than the 10 commandments are all based upon “having gratitude”. One after one, each and every commandment is basically to not be ingrate toward Hashem and toward our fellows. And don’t think they could be dissociated; absolutely not! They are all part on the 10 commandments to instruct us, that a person ingrate with his fellow is also ingrate toward Hashem. The “ingratitude” is a sickness and a plague that should be totally eradicated from ourselves. Even a minuscule amount will spread at an incredible speed.
The Zohar added that the fundamental trait of character of Bnei Yisrael is the principle of gratitude, as contrasted with Amalek, who is the epitome of ingratitude. Ingratitude leads to serious sins and the punishment is very severe. This is learnt from Adam, after he sinned and ate from the forbidden fruit, his excuse was “it’s the wife you gave me that tempted me”. Hashem told him, “ingrate” you prayed for a wife stating that every living creature besides you had a partner, now you blame her!? Hashem has no mercy for the ingrate and his was punished with the utmost severity.
The Zohar recounts; once Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi was passing by the gate of Guehinom and heart the plaints and moaning of those punished there. They were
1 As several times I was questioned why I generally brings the Zohar. The answer is simple: 1) The Shabbos table is the source of blessings for all our endeavors [Parnassa, Zivug etc.], several times the Zohar mentions the importance to learn it there as it opens the doors of success. 2) because the Zohar says that anyone who never learnt it in this world will not deserve to learn in the next world. If he was meritorious, he will only deserve to serve the Tsadikim in Gan Eden, but not deserve to learn Thora. Please read this Dvar Thora on your Shabbos table and you will open the gates of all blessings.
crying, why didn’t they lend an ear to those who tried to get them on the right path. Rabbi Yehoshua started crying and decided to pray for them so they’ll be released from Guehinom. Immediately a heavenly voice said, “Son of Levite, Son of Levite, go on your way and close your mouth, you are forbidden to pray for them”. It’s a wake-up call to check ourselves if we have any shade of ungratefulness, as it’s the very source for reneging Hashem.
Now, we understand the reason why the farmer was going through all this process. His gratefulness to Hashem had no bound, and by showing it explicitly through his proclamation, he was opening the floodgates of all the blessings. Such a person knows the true owner of every possession we have. And as long as we have them, we feel Hashem is constantly giving them to us. This is the true symbol of gratefulness. That’s the reason the farmer’s proclamation is required to be said in the present “the land that Hashem is giving me”.
Saying Thank you to Hashem after a person got a personal salvation is not enough. A person must profusely be thankful for all the moments of anguish, despair, fear etc. until he got his salvation. Anything less is being ungrateful. The punishment is so severe in contrast with a grateful person which will be flooded with Blessings.

Rabbi Fridmann

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