|In the past, Jewish farmers would bring their harvest’s first fruits to Jerusalem. They would travel together with other farmers led by oxen whose horns had been coated in gold adorned with olive branches placed on their heads, and flutes musically accompanied the procession; they would travel for only two-thirds of the day, which allowed others along the way to notice them and join the procession. When they were close to Jerusalem, emissaries were sent to notify the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the city’s religious and political leaders would greet them. When they reached Jerusalem, the city’s craftsmen would greet them and the procession continued until they reached the Temple Mount, at which point the King as well as the Levite choir would join them in celebration. Other tithes were also required to be brought to Jerusalem but there was no grand procession or fanfare. Why was there no ceremony or greeting committee, flutes, or cheering crowds for people who contribute ten percent of their total produce, a potentially huge amount of money, whereas those same people, when bringing a tiny first fruit, are accorded celebrity status? |
Bringing first fruits demonstrates faith in the future because they brought when the harvest is in its infancy whereas tithes are brought at the end of the harvest, indicating gratitude for the past. When I bring my first fruits it is special because I have nothing. I have been working hard in field for months and I go out every day looking for something—anything, even a bud—and then, all the sudden, after much anticipation, something finally sprouts. What do I do? I pluck it and give it away (i.e. bring it to the Temple). At that point, I have nothing (only one small fruit has budded) but hope and trust in G-d for the future. Concerning tithing, I have an entire silo (or silos) packed with produce. Granted, I give away 10% of the crop, but I still have 90%. It goes without saying that I want to express my gratitude to the Almighty for granting me a bumper crop, but I still have silos packed with produce. It’s hard to be thinking about anything other than a great upcoming year—vacations, purchases, an easy existence—and therefore it is fitting to be thankful specifically at that time for what I have. However, when a person has only one small fruit, all he has is trust in G-d. He’s done the necessary labors but potentially there is anxiety. Will it rain? Will insects devour the crop? Will there be enough sun? The message of first fruits is trust and looking toward the future whereas tithing’s message is to be grateful for the past.
We now understand why there’s so much fanfare for the tiny gift of the first fruits but there’s none when giving away buckets of tithed food. When I give away ten percent, what’s left (90%) after the gift is far more significant than the gift itself. This seems to be a small price to pay for all the bounty bestowed, but when I offer my first fruit, I have nothing; there are no crops in the field or silo. What do I do? I trust in the future—the same way that G-d has taken care of me until now, He will do so in the future. A person who has done all in his or her power and trusts G-d with the results is one worthy of special praise.
Both first fruits and tithing guide us in how to deal with prosperity. Instead of passively allowing your good fortune to go to your head, when things are going well with health, family, and career, make sure to express gratitude and realize the Source of your success. On the other hand, when you begin a new job, take on a life change or commitment, do everything you can to ensure your success but ultimately realize that many factors beyond your control will be needed— but nothing is beyond G-d. Gratitude to the Almighty for the past and trust in Him are effective formulae for avoiding becoming intoxicated by your success but also not having anxiety for the future.
The Jewish year is almost over. Let’s look back with gratitude for the things we were able to achieve, as well as being cognizant of the gifts of physical and mental health that allowed us to undertake and complete what we did. But we also must look toward the future year and trust that when we do everything necessary to tackle our personal and communal goals, we will not be disappointed. Good Shabbos