Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
A few words from Rashi (1040-1105), the great French Torah commentator, tell the whole story. After wandering in desert, the nation of Israel settles the Land of Israel and has now been living there for hundreds of years. A farmer goes out to his orchard and sees the first fruits of a tree beginning to ripen. He picks these fruits, takes them to Jerusalem, and in an emotional ceremony gives a speech that is exclusively about gratitude for the past and hope for the future. What is so emotional about the first figs from your tree? Even if you had just one tree growing in your backyard, you still had to perform this ceremony. But what is the point of it? Rashi explains what it’s all about: “not to be ungrateful”.
It’s a lesson in giving thanks for what we have. To rejoice in it. To take notice where it came from and not to take anything for granted. Our purpose, with our entrance into the Land of Israel and ever since, is to live with this attitude. To continually identify instances of goodness and lovingkindness, to make a big deal out of them, and to express thanks for them.
It seems to me that especially now, at such a challenging time, this perspective can assist us: to look around and always see the good, to be thankful and express gratitude to God for all that we have.