September 6, 2001
A Portion of Parshat Ki Tavo
Very soon, the people of Israel will step across the border of the Promised Land. It is a land of abundance, full of fruits and crops. It is a land in which the rain falls at the right time and in the right amount. It is a land with mountains and deserts, rivers and oceans.
What is the first thing the people of Israel must do when they enter the land? Give it away. In this portion, they are told that they must put all their first fruits in a teneh (basket) and bring it to the Temple. This must happen every year, during the festival of Shavuot, and it is a symbol of the people of Israel's gratitude for the abundance they have been given. In this portion they are also told they must set aside 10 percent of all their crops for the stranger, the orphan and the widow.
Have you ever opened your lunch box and found a whole bag of Oreos? Probably not. But imagine you did. You would probably give away half the bag to your friends. When you feel blessed with great abundance, it is easy to give part of it away. Here is a good morning practice: When you wake up, think of all the wonderful things in your life -- your parents, your comfy bed, your bike, your freezer full of Go-Gurts. Then put a dime in your tzedakah box, or give money to your local charity at school.