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Thursday, Elul 19 5782 / September 15, 2022


This week's Parsha, Ki Tavo, begins with the mitzvah of "Bikurim" - bringing the first fruits to Jerusalem to, “leave it before G-d your G-d."  Bikurim was given as a gift to the Kohen (Priest) who performs the duties in the Holy Temple.


When presenting the Bikurim to the Kohen, the person bringing it would praise and thank G-d for all the miracles which He performed for the Jewish people. He concluded, "And now I have brought the first fruits of the land which You have given me..."


Giving the Bikurim to the Kohen expressed the giver's thanks to G-d for the good that he received.  Bikurim, as well as giving charity, demonstrates that whatever we possess is due to G-d's generosity.


In the Selichot service, which we recite in preparation for Rosh Hashana (New Year), we pray that G-d bless us with a good year. We don't ask for this as a result of our good deeds, rather we say, "We come before You without good deeds; as poor and indigent we knock on your door [for charity]."


Q.  Why do we ask G-d to grant us our needs as a charitable act not as reward for our good deeds?


A.   The Magid of Dubna explains it with the following parable: A poor man desperately needed a coat for the winter months. He went from door to door collecting money until he could afford one. He then went, together with his son, to the store to buy the coat.


After choosing a coat, he told the store owner his dire situation of poverty and begged the owner to give him the coat for free.  The kindhearted store owner pitied him and agreed.  However, after he took the coat, he gave the owner the money he collected, thanked him, and left.


His son was puzzled, "Father," he asked, "if you intended all along to pay the merchant for the coat, why did you ask him to give it to you without charge?"


The father replied, "My son, I never intended to take the coat for free.  However, I was afraid that the money I collected was not enough to pay for the coat, so I asked him to be kind and give it to me for free.  Once he agreed to this, any amount of money which I offered him would be acceptable and he would be very happy, even if it wasn't the full price of the coat."


"The same is with us," explained the Magid.  "Can we honestly come before G-d and say that we have done enough mitzvot to warrant His kindness in return for what we have accomplished? 


Therefore, we ask for G-d's mercy and kindness, saying, "We come before You without good deeds; as poor and indigent we knock on your door [for charity]."  Only after G-d accepts our plea to grant us what we need as a result of His generosity, can our good deeds and mitzvot, which we performed during the year, even if they are modest, carry the added value to bring us blessings in the New Year.