Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
How do we relate to the many "firsts" in our lives? This week's Torah portion describes the first fruits ceremony: A farmer goes out to his orchard, sees the first ripe fruit on a tree and, instead of taking a bite, puts it in a basket and takes it with him to Jerusalem in a festive procession. There he expresses thanks for his life's journey and for all the journeys of the nation of Israel. Instead of going into his home and eating his first fruits, he connects the fig and the pomegranate that he grew to the entire history of his people.
Our commentators explain that the firsts in our lives and the initial moments of all our endeavors deserve special attention and elevation. Just like the farmer who refrains from taking his first fruits for himself, but connects them to eternity, we need to sanctify all of our new ventures: the start of a new school year that is always accompanied with excitement, the start of a new calendar year that is always initiated with blasts from the shofar, with an apple dipped in honey, with festive meals and inspirational prayers.
The Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chasidic movement, called upon us to elevate our daily "first fruits," the moments upon awakening each day, in the following manner: "It is essential to pay attention to the firsts of each day: the first thought, the first word spoken, the first action." Do we awaken with a positive or a negative thought? What is the first sentence that leaves our mouth, a complaint or something positive? And what is the first thing that we do? Is it an action that will pull along behind it more positive actions and good deeds throughout the day? The first fruits ceremony is not just ancient history. It is something we can replicate again and again, if we only pay attention to the many firsts we envounter in our daily lives.