“And it shall be that when you come into the land which the Ever-Present-One your God is giving you as a heritage and you possess and settle in it, you shall take some of the first fruit…” In the Torah, that act of gratitude is coupled with specific words for the pilgrim, words that we echo in the telling of our Passover Haggadah: “My father was a fugitive Aramean . He went down to Egypt with meager numbers…the Egyptians dealt harshly with us…The Lord freed us from Egypt with a mighty hand…And brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Wherefore I now bring the first fruits of the soil which You, O Lord, have given me” (Deuteronomy 26:5-10). Our distinctive history offered context of gratitude for a specific crop. Our own harvest of life’s goodness is enhanced when grounded in the larger sweep of Jewish history.
In only recent decades, we as a people have returned to the Land of Israel. The words of the Bible are given added meaning when we eat hummus or an orange from Israel. Our possession of the land harkens back to our relationship with God and our deliverance from slavery a long time ago. There is continuity of the past with the challenge to fashion a homeland that reflects the values of the Torah. In that light, our recent public conversation between Peter Beinart and Daniel Gordis led us as a community to further consider Israel’s strengths and moral challenges. We posted that event on youtube a week ago and have already had over 500 views. If you would like to watch or share with a friend, please go to https://www.cbi18.org/sermons/debate-beinart-gordis/