Our parsha opens with the mitzvah of bringing the first fruits to the Holy Temple. Farmers in the land of Israel were commanded to take the first ripened fruits to the Temple and present them to the Kohen, and to thank Hashem publicly for saving us from our enemies and bringing us to the Holy Land (Artscroll commentary) “Then you shall call out and say before Hashem your God, ‘An Aramean tried to destroy my forefather. He descended to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation- great, strong, and numerous… Then we cried out to Hashem, the God of our forefathers, and Hashem heard our voice and saw our affliction, our travail, and our oppression.’” (Chapter 26, Verses 5-7)
Reb Noson teaches that the first fruits are the aspect of renewal. A farmer was obligated to bring the new, first ripened fruits each year, as described above. Hashem, with his kindness and wonders saved us from our enemies. What does renewal mean? A person needs to renew themselves all the time, and to start again from the beginning when they’ve fallen. Don’t be startled by your thoughts, says R’ Noson, when you think of all of the obstacles, and trials, and attacks of the evil inclination that you’ve experienced. Rather, a person needs to remind himself of Hashem’s kindnesses and miracles which he has seen until this moment, just as the Torah teaches us in the chapter about the first fruits. Despite everything that the Jewish people went through in the Exodus, and everything that Yaakov our forefather experienced with his brother Esav and in the house of Lavan, nevertheless Hashem helped them and saved them. So too on a personal level, each person goes through all of the same types of trials during their lifetime. The evil inclination pursues a person and overcomes them and tries to knock them down every day, just as Lavan and Esav pursued and even wanted to kill Yaakov. Nevertheless, Hashem helps each individual and the Jewish people as a whole every time, just as we say in the daily prayers: ‘and for your miracles which are with us every day, and for your wonders which are with us every moment… He who is good, because His kindness is eternal…” There is no other advice, says Reb Noson, except emunah (faith), which is the aspect of renewal. We can renew ourselves with the faith that Hashem is always helping us. A person should know that they truly don’t see and don’t know at all the bigger picture of their life; therefore they just need to strengthen themselves in the holy faith which we, the Jewish people, received from our forefathers. Don’t let anything you go through confuse you and startle you! The Sages said that even if a person transgressed the entire Torah, many times, God forbid, nevertheless there is no despair in the world, and even this person can make a new start! Hashem has pleasure, so to speak, from even the worst person, who is very far due to his sins, when he returns and comes closer to Hashem. Therefore, a person needs to start anew every time, which is the aspect of the first fruits. (Likutei Halachot, the Laws of Meat and Milk, 4th teaching)
This month is a powerful time to tap into the power of renewal and to contemplate how we want the new year of 5780 to be. What do we want to change? What do we want to improve? The new year ahead is a totally new creation and there are so many possibilities which are open for us. If this year has been, G-d forbid, a difficult and challenging year for you, the next year can be completely different! Everything can turn around. If this year was a really good year, we still need to strive to renew ourselves and to set new goals for ourselves. Hashem is helping us prepare this month for the new year ahead by setting objectives for ourselves, as well as by helping us see the issues in our lives which we need to try to improve and rectify. It is taught about the month of Elul that Hashem’s presence can be felt more closely and more strongly this month, the King is in the field. Hashem comes toward us and wants us to come closer to him. It is a time of mercy and love.
May we all merit as we prepare for the new year to renew our faith is Hashem’s loving presence and guidance, and may we seek His closeness when we pray and think about the new year ahead, amen.
(The image is courteous of Chabad.org)