When you have entered the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the LORD your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name. Deuteronomy 26:1-2
The Torah portion for this week is Ki Tavo, which means "when you have entered," from Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 60:1-22.
The summer of 2014 was a difficult one for Israel. Bombarded by incessant missiles, the Israel Defense Forces had no choice but to put an end to Hamas's firing capability. What the soldiers found in Gaza was far worse than they had imagined. The terrorists had built an intricate set of tunnels that spanned the few miles between Gaza and Israel. These tunnels were part of an elaborate plot to sneak into Israel and kill as many civilians as possible.
During the operation, pandemonium broke out one Friday morning as terrorists opened fire on the IDF soldiers during an official cease-fire period, killing two instantly and dragging another, Hadar Goldin, into a terror tunnel. As soon as the soldiers realized what had happened, 23-year-old Lt. Eitan turned to his comrades and said, "I'm going after Goldin. If I'm not back in five minutes, I'm dead." While Eitan did not succeed in bringing back his comrade, he found enough evidence to allow authorities to determine that Goldin had been killed, giving his family closure. In addition, Eitan's valiant display of brotherhood served as encouragement to all.
In this week's portion, we read about the commandment of Bikkurim, bringing the firstfruits to God, once the Israelites were inside of Israel. However, the children of Israel did not observe this directive right away. Why? Because the full conquest of the land took 14 years, and until every one of the Israelites had settled in the land, the rest of the nation was unsettled as well, even if some had already built houses and harvested produce. If part of the nation was still battling for their security, the whole nation shared in their plight. Their joy could not be complete until all their brethren were safely out of harm's way.
This spirit of fellowship and brotherhood was present from the very beginnings of the nation of Israel and remains tangible even today. The sentiment that "I am not OK if you are not OK" is a guiding spiritual force that will always govern our nation.
On a larger scale, we would have a much greater world if everyone thought along these lines. How can we be OK if there are millions of others who are not? It's easy to get caught up in our own lives and to forget the poverty, danger, and terror that grips other parts of our world. No one person can save everyone, but if we each do our part and see all human beings as our brethren, we can dramatically change the world for the better. As the Jewish sages taught: "It is not for you to complete the work, but you are not free to desist from it." We all need to do our part today!
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President