Friday, September 08, 2006

Parshas Ki Savo

This weeks Parsha, Parshas Ki Savo starts out with the commandment of Bikkurim - that one should bring his first fruits to the Beis Hamikdash in Yerushalayim. The Mishna in Bikkurim explains the entire process involved with the bringing of these first fruits. It explains that the fruits were brought in vessels, according to how wealthy one was. It says that the rich would bring the fruits in gold or silver vessels, while the poor would bring their fruits to Yerushalayim in wicker or reed baskets. Furthermore, the Sifrei writes, the reed or wicker baskets would be given to the Kohanim to keep, while the gold/silver baskets of the rich would be returned to their owners.

Intuitively, this makes no sense. If anyone could spare their vessels, it would certainly be the rich people! The poor people could not afford the loss of any of their posessions, however small it may be. So why would the Torah require the poor people give up their vessels, but the rich get to walk home with theirs? Interesting, the Talmud says that this ritual is an example of how, "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer."

R' Aharon Boxt answers that the Torah, while seemingly demonstrating insensitivity, is actually demonstrating the opposite - sensitivity. He explains that the rich had many more "first fruits" to bring than the poor, as they could afford to harvest and take care of more plants. Therefore, when the Kohen received the fruits from the rich on the gold/silver vessel, the fruits alone were enough to impress the Kohen. However, if the kohen were to receive the paltry amount of fruit from the poor person and nothing else, the poor person would be extremely embarassed by his gift. Therefore, the Torah requires the poor to give the basket together with the fruit, thus making the present to the Kohen look more impressive, and thus saving the dignity of the poor person. So what, at first glance, appears to be insensitive, is specifically done out of sensitivity. While the person may be out of a wicker vessel, he is left with his dignity. One can work a little harder to make the money back, but nothing can be done with a lost sense of dignity.

We clearly learn from this the lengths that Hashem goes to preseve a man's (or woman's) dignity. Basically, we are ants compared to Hashem. Nonetheless, he still finds dignity important enough a issue to single out in this lesson of this weeks parsha. If Hashem finds this important enough to emphasize, obviously then, us, as fellow ants should do our utmost to act with others in a dignified manner - poor and rich alike.

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