Thursday, September 18, 2008

"You shall cast yourself down before the Presence of God and you shall rejoice in all the good that God has given you and your household."

It has been well over a month since I have written in my blog. Quite frankly I have been struggling with the theological aspects of what the Torah states and does not state in reference to homosexuality. I was planning to write a comparison between this week's parsha, Ki Tavo and Acharei Mot. The latter specifically mentions homosexuality along with other "so-called" forbidden sexual acts, while the former parsha mentions the other forbidden sexual acts, but homosexuality is conspicuously absent from this week's parsha.

But I am choosing not to continue along this line and instead to discuss another part of this week's parsha.

At the beginning of the parsha, we read about the mitzva of "bikkurim", the instruction to dedicate the first fruits of the harvest. The root of the declaration is the recognition that all belongs to God. Man may till the soil, plant the seed and harvest the crop, but the underlying assumption is that it is God who ultimately provides the sustenance.

Whatever the human action, the bikkurim offering is an acknowledgement that God's role is primary. The actual offering is subordinate to the intention of making the offering. The point of the offering is to make it clear that everything comes from God.

Rabbi Sholom Noach Berezovsky, the Slonimer rebbe, in Netivot Shalom, picks up on the intention implied with the bikkurim offering. “This is the soul and fundamental principle of the mitzvah of bikkurim—we attribute what is first to God. Through this we dedicate everything that concerns us to God”.

Some time ago I read an article that discussed the tension that exists between man and God. Every Friday night we recite kiddush over wine that God provides, but is produced by man. We continue to make hamotzei over the bread that God provides, but is baked by man.

There is a constant tension in Judaism between what successes man can claim for himself and what successes are the result of Divine Providence. We rarely attribute any of our successes to Divine Providence. This week's parsha reminds us that it is always in God's hands.

The tension exists, but through some of our rituals, we have managed to negotiate and reconcile the human/divine challenge.

In the course of the last ten months I have also witnessed how my son and his friends have learned to negotiate and reconcile their struggle and challenges with God.

I have come to learn over the past ten months that what is written (in Acharei Mot) or what is not written (in Ki Tavo) is less important than how we negotiate and reconcile the tension that exists as a result of Divine Providence.

The message of bikkurim is that we must acknowledge that everything, including us, has come from God. The challenge is what we do with God's creation. The treasure of Judaism is that all challenges can be reconciled once we make the acknowledgement.

Saul David

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