The Basket- Parshat Ki Tavo
Two disciples of the Hassidic Master known as the “Maggid of Mezritch” came to the Maggid with a question: “We are troubled by the teaching of our sages, that one must bless for the evil one experiences as well as the good (Mishna, Berachot, 9:5). How are we to understand this?” The Maggid replied, “Go to the beit midrash (house of study). There you will find Reb Zusha smoking his pipe. He will give you the answer.” So they went and found Reb Zusha and put the question to him. Zusha just laughed and said, “I think you’ve come to the wrong man. I have never experienced suffering in my life.” But the two knew that Zusha’s life had been a web of need and anguish. They understood.
When we hear a teaching like this, it can sound as though it is advocating that we play act. Suffering happens and we should pretend that it’s “all good”. We should put on a happy face. But the teaching is much deeper than that.
This week’s parshah, Ki Tavo, begins by describing a ritual of gratitude that the Israelites should do when they dwell in the promised Land: “V’lakakhta mereishit kol p’ri ha’adamah- you shall take from the first fruits of the earth”. It goes on to describe how the celebrant should put the fruit in a basket and bring it to the place where the Divine “chooses” to “make the Holy Name rest”. The celebrant then makes a declaration of having come from slavery to freedom, the gift of the land, and of offering the first fruits. The celebrant then “rejoices” with one’s family as well as the “stranger”.
This moment, right now, is the “fruit” of all that has come before. What is our “first fruit”? It is our primary relationship with this moment. The content of this moment may be complex; it may have both goodness and suffering. Nevertheless, it is our choice to hold this moment in the “basket” of gratitude. Without pretending away our problems, it is still our choice to give thanks for the gift of this “fruit”. In giving thanks, we also recognize that we are free, because we are not controlled by the “good” and the “bad”. We can remain open. And here is also the recognition that the Divine “rests” in this moment; in choosing to be present and give thanks for this, we receive this moment as G-d’s choice.
In this month of return, may we re-turn evermore into the space of freedom that is gratitude for this eternal presence of Being. Amein.
9/15/2014 05:08:44 pm
Beautiful and well said. I get it. :)
10/30/2014 03:14:30 pm
This little task is probably why more people do not reply. You don't want to leave the beautiful little place in which you find yourself. Typing in your name and email is too mundane for the moment.
9/16/2014 09:14:00 am
I was blessed to attend a workshop by Brian, and thus began a short, but fruitful journey. My initial enchantment came from hearing a chant that resonated deeply. There is a story about Hillel who was told by a gentile that he would convert if Hillel could recite the whole of the Torah while standing on one foot. That which is despicable to you, do not ask of your fellow. All the rest is commentary. As I read the blogs, and the weekly lessons, along with the videos and blogs, I think that the one striking lesson is this: All is HaShem, the love of, and our love for. All the rest is commentary. It is a blessing to receive wisdom that comes from love, and I thank you
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