Parashat Ki Tavo

First Fruits

There are many things we can do to create local culture that links God, land, and people.

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We are not in a position to rectify the situation through the bringing of bikkurim, since the Holy Temple, to our sorrow, is no longer standing. The Temple, as the bridge between the physical and spiritual worlds, was the center of a proper Jewish culture rooted in the Land of Israel; without it, our ability to reconstruct such a culture is limited.

Local Culture

Yet there are many things that we can do even now to help recreate a local culture that acknowledges the links between God, the Land of Israel, and the Jewish people. We can grow and eat the seven species, taking the extra time to learn about their spiritual symbolism. We can be more conscious of how our moral and practical actions determine the abundance or lack of blessing in the form of rain.

We can become acquainted with the traditional agricultural practices of the region and support farmers who implement them. And we can build stable, diverse, morally upright communities in the Land of Israel. All of these small tikkunim (repairs) serve to reinforce our dependence on God and maintain a balance between different sectors of Jewish society. 

Even in the Diaspora, we can still experience a sense of partnership with God by growing our own food. We can help maintain an environmentally sensible food culture by purchasing locally grown products in season. We can grow some of the seven species that might be compatible with our bioregions. And most importantly, we can dedicate time to learning Torat Eretz Yisrael, the Torah of the Land of Israel, including a trip to the Holy Land itself.

Every year upon bringing the bikkurim, the farmer announces, "Today I am affirming that I have come to the Land that God swore to our fathers to give us (Deut. 26:3)." Rashi comments that this is an expression of thanks to God for having given us the Land of Israel.

It would make sense to give thanks upon initial entry into the Land, but why would a farmer need to repeat this every year? It must be that coming into the Land, and the expression of gratitude commensurate with such a gift, are part of an ongoing process. May we merit to continually "come into the Land," reinforcing our commitment to it, to God, and to all of the Jewish people, and may this strong bond serve as an example to all of humanity.

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Leiba Chaya David is director of Ru'ach HaSviva, The SPNI Center for Jewish Environmentalism. She lives with her husband and three small children on a moshav near Jerusalem.