“And you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the earth which you shall bring of your land that the L-rd your G-d gives you, and shall put in a basket, and shall go to the place which the L-rd your G-d shall choose to place his name there” (Devarim 26:2).
Camping at the threshold of the Holy Land, Bnei Yisrael are commanded to bring the first fruit they will produce to the place designated by Hashem. Upon arriving there, the bearer of the fruit must give the basket to the Kohen and make a declaration of thanks to G-d for all that He has given to the bearer of the bikurim. This process raises an interesting question. Why does the Torah command that one bring specifically the first fruit? If one has a farm, there might be other fruits that are of better quality, or one might say that all the dates from one date tree (for example) are the same. The first fruit to ripen may not be what we would bring if we were given the choice as to which fruit to bring as a token of our gratitude.
A young man from a wealthy family built an ornate mansion for himself. When he moved in, he invited friends and relatives to a chanukat habayit celebration and guided his guests on a tour of his new home. The guests were awestruck by the first-class accommodations the young man had built for himself. Every detail was a representation of good taste and also of the wealth it takes to acquire the “best of everything.” Room after room, wing after wing, the mansion was magnificent and drew the accolades of all in attendance. Well, all except the young man’s father. His father was waiting to hear two words from his son: “Thank you!” After all, the money it took to complete such a project came from daddy’s toil in the world of business and his success. The least he should expect, his dad thought, was, “Thanks, Dad! Without you, none of this would have been possible!” But that thank you never came.
When someone gives up the first of one’s produce, one is, in effect, saying, “I’m not the producer. I don’t own this. I am acknowledging that it’s all a gift and I’m saying thanks.” The bikurim declaration expresses this thought over and over again. The passuk says, “…you shall bring of your land that the L-rd your G-d gives you.” The donor then declares that this fruit came from “the country the L-rd swore to our fathers to give to us.” He then says, “And He brought us to this place and has given us this Land.” Over and over the one who brought his fruit acknowledges that everything belongs to Hashem and the donor has not given of his own; rather, “from Yours we have given You.”
As we approach Rosh Hashanah with hopes of blessing for all that is good in the coming year, we should reprogram our thoughts away from selfish requests for the future. Rather, we should focus on thanks for all the gifts we have received thus far. A sincere thank you will prompt our Father to give us new blessings in the new year.