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The Systems of the Jewish Year


By Rabbi Sender Haber

The Torah commands us to bring our first fruits to the Beis Hamikdash. As soon as a farmer saw a bud begin to blossom, he would go out to his field and tie a piece of grass – a ‘gumi’ – to the fruit. When the fruit finally ripened he would bring it to Yerushalayim and stand in front of the Mizbe’ach. He would thank Hashem for all of Jewish history, from the time that Yaakov escaped from Lavan through our growth as a nation, our Exodus from Egypt, the giving of the Torah, the Land of Israel, and finally this little pomegranate that he was bringing before G-d. The halacha is that a person bringing Bikkurim could bring as much or as little as he wanted. There would be huge parades with gold-plate horned oxen, birds, and baskets of fruits. There would be singing and dancing and musical instruments, but it would all surround a small pomegranate or olive or grape or piece of barley or wheat.

Reb Aharon Karliner was once eating an apple. He picked up the apple, made a bracha with concentration, and took a bite. A Chossid was watching and asked an audacious question. “What is the difference”, he asked, “between you and I? You eat apples and I eat apples; you make a bracha and I eat a bracha. How are we different?”

Rav Aharon Karliner explained: “I wake up in the morning and I see the wondrous creations of Hashem. I see a beautiful blue sky and smell the fresh air. I look at Hashem’s world and I am awed by its beauty and functionality. I notice the apple tree right outside my window. It is a beautiful tree, and it consistently supplies us with apples. Each apple has several seeds, which each has the ability to create another tree with beautiful apples, each of which will have seeds. I am so overcome by the greatness of Hashem that I must make a bracha thanking Hashem for the world and the tree and the apple. I want to say Baruch Atah Hashem…., but I am not allowed. One can’t just make a bracha, he needs to partake of the apple.”

“You”, continued Reb Aharon, “you wake up in the morning and say ‘gevald!’, I want an apple. Of course, you are a Religious Jew so you would not think of eating the apple without making a blessing.”

“Therein lies the difference: you make the Bracha so that you can eat the apple; I eat the apple so that I can make a bracha”

The bringing of Bikkurim is one of the few Mitzvos that must be done with happiness. Rashi quotes the Sifri that we are bringing the fruits and making the declaration to show that we are not ungrateful for everything that Hashem has done for us. As hard as we worked and as small as our crop may be, we still appreciate everything recognize that it is all through the grace of G-d.

The Shulchan Aruch writes that we should make one hundred brachos a day. We make brachos on every little thing. We thank Hashem for every peanut and jelly bean that we eat. We thank him for giving us clothing to wear and a body that works; we make brachos thanking Hashem for the shoes on our feet and for the ground that we walk on.

We need to work on recognizing what Hashem has done for us and what other people have done for us. Somebody taught us how to tie our shoes and ride a bike and drive a car and read. We need to remember who those people were, and thank them. We need to be able able to come before Hashem with a grape and thank Him for everything in our lives and in our lifetimes and in the entire history of the Jewish people that has brought us to this grape.

This is Rosh Hashana: An acknowledgement of Hashem’s role in our lives and of the series of events that have brought us to where we are. This perspective is what we reinforce on Rosh Hashana and what we think about when we envision the coming year.

If we can see our year (accurately) as one in which we know that we will need Hashem and other people, our tefillos will be different. We will be more sincere and more desperate in what we ask of Hashem and we will be more thoughtful and generous when we think about and daven for others.

Kesiva Vechasima Tova

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