“We should be attentive to the beginning moments of each day: our first thought, our first word, our first act.” (Baal Shem Tov)
Today, the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov, I was fortunate to begin my morning with a shiur by Sivan Rahav-Meir which included this teaching. She related it to the opening words of Parshat Ki Tavo – “When you enter the Land that God gives you as a portion, and you inherit it and settle there. And you will take the first fruits of the earth…and place them in a basket…” (Devarim 26)
The focus on “reishit kol pri haadama” – the first fruits of the field – relates to the importance of all beginnings, including our first personal expressions each day, through our thoughts, words, and actions, as taught also in Sefer Tanya.
Even as I try to begin my day with Modah Ani, yoga, tefilla and positive thoughts, and my heart is filled to the brim with thankfulness for the magnificent, flourishing Judean Hills outside my window and the family that God has gifted me, I know that we have not arrived yet.
I took off 3 days this week to camp on the semi-pristine shores of Nitzanim beach. The warm sand, high waves and full moon, helped me process all of the blessings that have brought me to this day, after 33 years in Israel and a summer full of family simchas.
Like the ceremony of “Bikurim” in this Parasha – marking the first fruits on the trees and vines, bringing them with great joy and fanfare from all parts of Israel to Jerusalem on Shavuot, and telling the long story of our People’s history to the Cohen – I feel infused with longing, perspective, and tremendous appreciation.
This, in stark contrast to the recent political capitulation of our leaders against our hard-earned achievements and security – including planned building by the Palestinian Authority in Area C in the heart of Gush Etzion and Samaria – which reminds me of the bizarre curses of fear and confusion in this Parasha.
Fortunately and miraculously, our reality is much closer to God’s blessings on Mt.Grizim. We have become “the head and not the tail,” “the providers to many nations,” and He has “blessed all the work of our hands.”
As we enter the New Year, may we know how to protect all these painfully-earned blessings, so that we may continue to fulfill God’s commandments in our sovereign land, in joy, justice, and gratitude.
“And you will guard the words of this covenant and fulfill them, so that you will succeed in all you do.”