by Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt
Jewish law demands that every farmer bring the first fruit produced by each of his trees to Jerusalem as an offering to God. It would be consumed by the priests as God’s representatives. (God himself is not a big fruit eater.)
The person bringing the offering read a beautiful text from this week’s portion. It traces the history of the Jewish people from our original forefathers, through becoming a nation, the slavery in Egypt, followed by redemption and the gift of a “land flowing with milk and honey”.
Its theme is that of gratitude. I rented a cherry tree for my family this year in Sussex. We went to the orchard in July and picked 12kg of the most delicious cherries that have ever existed – from just one tree.
There was really something special about seeing hundreds of trees whose boughs were bending from the weight of the fruit on them.
There was a feeling of the richness of God’s creation, the vast blessing and abundance of planet earth.
The Torah says that a farmer should take that good feeling and direct it towards gratitude, because from the Torah’s perspective, there is very little more important and more precious in the human experience than gratitude.
I, for one, am a very big fan.
I love the way gratitude feels and I love being able to express it to other people – even if I am a fallible human being who is regularly remiss in doing so!
There are so many laws in the Torah associated with gratitude – the first fruits being an obvious one. Honouring parents is, of course, another.
In essence, gratitude means taking that which you have been given and giving back part of it – as in the first fruits.
If someone got you out of prison and hence gave you your time back, gratitude would mean spending some of that time to help him if he asked.
If someone helped you to make money, gratitude would mean buying something that he needed with some of the money that you made.
If someone introduced you to your spouse, gratitude would mean giving up some of your time with that spouse to assist him at a time of need. Gratitude is all about giving back when you have been given to, not simply saying “thank you”.
Living in a feeling of gratitude is one of life’s great pleasures. So my principle is to look for it wherever I can find it. And once I’ve found it, try to live it. Start doing so and you will soon find it around every corner.
• Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt is founder of Tikun UK