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Where Credit is Due

Friday, 4 September, 2020 - 4:24 pm

 

Everyone appreciates getting credit for their hard work. An inventor has the right to patent an invention which becomes his or her intellectual property, but if they are employed by a large corporation which provides education, training, salary, benefits, a laboratory and supplies, the invention belongs to the corporation and not to the individual.

It’s hard to challenge such an arrangement since without the support of the corporation the inventor would never be able to develop the invention, and the more the employee produces the more resources he or she will receive going forward.

In this week’s parsha we read about the Mitzvah of Bikkurim. The first of a long list of ritual taxes associated with the agricultural economy in Israel is the obligation to bring first and best of the five fruits the Torah defines as the beauty and praise of the Promised Land (figs, dates, grapes, olives and pomegranates) to the Holy Temple to be given to the Kohanim.

Bikkurim was observed with joyous fanfare. Entire villages would make the pilgrimage together to Jerusalem where they were greeted by the locals with a veritable parade as they carried the fruits in adorned baskets. Arriving at the Holy Temple the orchard owners recited a powerful prayer of thanksgiving to G-d, receiving much blessing in return.

Bikkurim is different from all other ritual taxes. All the rest had a defined obligatory percentage of produce that needed to be given to a specific cause. Bikkurim had no defined obligatory amount but needed to be given from the first fruits harvested that year. Clearly, the purpose of Bikkurim was mainly an important exercise for the giver rather than a tax to benefit the receiver.

After toiling in the orchard for a full season one could naturally feel entitled to pull off the first fig from the tree and enjoy the “fruits of his labor.” Of course many more figs will be donated to many important causes, but surely the first fruits should be enjoyed by the one who worked so hard to grow them.

Bikkurim reminds us that specifically the first fruits belong to G-d, because everything we have is only due to G-d’s blessing. The orchard, the tools, the agricultural knowledge and the energy to roll up our sleeves and get to work is all from G-d A-lmighty. Sanctifying the first fruits is the most powerful way we can remain mindful of where all our blessings come from and become the conduit for many more blessings in the future.

Today, in the absence of a physical Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the Mitzvah of Bikkurim remains relevant in our personal lives. Set aside the first and best hour of the day to pray and learn Torah, give a percentage of your paycheck to charity before using the money for yourself and express your heartfelt thanks to G-d for the gift of life and all that comes along with it. These are joyful exercises that will keep you anchored in the right attitude and make you a vessel to receive overflowing blessings.

 

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