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Posted on September 1, 2023 (5783) By Rabbi Label Lam | Series: | Level:

And it will be, when you come into the land which HASHEM, your G-d, gives you for an inheritance, and you possess it and settle in it, that you shall take (M’Reishis) of the fruit of the ground, which you will bring from your land, which HASHEM, your G-d, is giving you. And you shall put [them] into a basket and go to the place which HASHEM, your G-d, will choose to have His Name dwell there. (Devarim 26:1-2)

(M’Reishis) of the first fruit: A man goes down into his field and sees a fig that has ripened. He winds a reed around it for a sign and declares: “This is the first fruit (בִּכּוּרִים).” – Rashi

This first fruit is called by an important name, “Reishis”. That superior designation is calling out for greater recognition. Why is it applied here? It’s a simple farmer meeting the first fruits. Where does this appellation, “Reishis” come from?

The opening words of the Torah are too often misread and misunderstood, “In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth.” That statement would imply that the Torah is communicating cosmology, as a science textbook, and is interested in satisfying our curiosity about the order of creation. The Torah, Rashi relates, is rather a teaching book with a more important lessons to be learned.

The first letter “Beis” taken as a prefix, meaning “for” or “for the sake of” when attached to the word “Reishis” means that the world was created for the sake of something called, “Reishis”. Using the rest of Torah as a self-referential dictionary of sorts, Rashi qualifies and crowns two items with the title, “Reishis”-Primary. It is for their sake all is created. We are being told not “how” but rather “why” the world was created. Those two essential ingredients that Rashi identifies are the Torah and Israel who are crowned with the title Reishis. It is for both of them that the whole world was created! I know this all sounds terribly self-serving but let’s understand why it’s so.

If I were to attempt to solicit from you a large donation to build a school building, you would certainly be justified in asking a few questions. “Why do we need this school anyway?”

I will have to give some real answers. What if I tell you, “We have a wonderfully unique curriculum.” Then you might follow up and ask, “Who would attend this school? From where do you get your faculty?” Good questions!

Imagine, now, the whole world is this school. Why is it here? What is it in this life that justifies the existence of all the world’s forests, marketplaces, buildings, people and parking lots? Why a world?! Why do we need all this? What purpose does it serve? How does it justify its existence? The Holy Torah is saying it, right in the beginning. Not me! Why and to whom should we apologize?

The curriculum is the Torah. The students and the faculty are Israel. Together they produce something so valuable that the Talmud tells us that the whole world was created for “this” alone. What is this “this”? Something else is also called “Reishis”. (REISHIS CHOCHMA) “The primary wisdom is fear of HASHEM!” This whole educational process is meant to inspire its students with a sense of awe and ecstasy in relationship to their Creator.

Bikurim, these first fruits, are also a Reishis for which the world was created. It is quietly an act of great courage and superior devotion. Once the fruit is ripening on the tree, there is a tendency for the farmer to declare, “Look what my hands have accomplished!” For a person to overcome the natural egoistic instinct and deliver his first fruit – his Reishis to HASHEM, shows that he has not become intoxicated with his own doing. He still feels he owes everything to HASHEM, his FIRST THANKS!

When a student, even years later, writes a letter to a teacher or principal and tells them what a difference the education they provided for him made to them and how they are applying the many lessons to their daily life, believe me, that teacher or administrator does not disregard that little note.

He cherishes it. He may frame it and put it on the wall. He likely waited a long time to get such a message. The expressions of appreciation are certainly farther and fewer between compared numerically to the sheer volume of angry complaints and outrageous requests. Yet, this miniature gesture makes everything worthwhile.