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Wednesday, Elul 18 5782 / September 14, 2022


This Shabbat we read Parshat Ki Tavo.   The Parsha begins with the mitzvah of "Bikurim" – bringing the first ripened fruits to the holy Temple in Jerusalem and offering them to the Kohen (priest).  Bikurim is an offering of thanks to G-d for all His blessings.


Once in Jerusalem, the basket of fruit was given to the Kohen (priest).  The person who brought it would thank G-d for all the miracles which G-d has done for the Jewish people, and for bringing us, "to this place and giving us this land, a land that flows with milk and honey."


The Torah concludes the mitzvah of Bikurim as follows, "And you shall rejoice in all the good which the L-rd your G-d has given you and to your household."


Since we don’t have the Temple, the mitzvah of Bikurim does not apply today.  However, its lesson is everlasting.  It teaches us that before we enjoy the bounty and blessings which G-d gives us, we must show gratitude for His kindness, by first giving a fair share to Tzedakah (charity) and providing for the poor and needy.


Everything G-d does is for the good,” say our sages, yet, many times G-d's actions don't reveal that good.  In situations like these one has to believe and trust in G-d that everything is for the ultimate good. Our rabbis give the following parable to teach us that somethings are better left to faith than to ask for answers.


A wealthy landowner, who was making a party for his many friends, decided to have a special garment made.  He bought the most expensive material and hired a master tailor and gave him the cloth to make the garment.  The tailor put all his effort in producing a most special garment.  When the wealthy man appeared at the party, everyone was astonished and praised the beauty and craftsmanship of the garment.


However, one person was jealous of the praise heaped on the tailor.  He accused the tailor of stealing some of the very expensive cloth.  The wealthy man was furious.  He called the tailor and said, "The cloth I gave you was four meters long, but when I measured the garment, I found it to be shorter than three meters."


The tailor told him that the accusation was wrong, "Every bit of the material you gave me is in the garment."  He went on to explain to him how the extra material was needed for the many pleats, folds and overlaps which make up the beauty of the suit.  But, the wealthy man, didn't accept the explanations.  "I want the unused cloth back!"


Seeing that all his explanations didn't make an impression on the landowner, the tailor asked for the garment.  He then began removing the threads and taking apart the seams. 


"What are you doing," cried the man.  "You're ruining my most precious suit!"


"With your stubbornness," replied the tailor, "the only way to satisfy you is to take apart the garment and bring it back to its original form.  Now you will measure it and see that I was right.  This is the price you must pay for your lack of faith in me!"


Today, the 18th of Elul is the birthday of Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement. It is also the birthday of Rabbi Schneur Zalmen, founder of Chabad Chasiddic branch.