Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
The Case of the Basket
“Poverty follows the poor,” observed a Talmudic sage more than 1,500 years ago. What prompted his remark was one of the laws of bikkurim -- the “first fruits” brought by the Israelite farmer to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. More specifically, a law regarding the baskets in which the bikkurim were brought.
If you tilled the earth in the biblical land of Israel, and your orchard grew any of the special fruits with which the land is blessed -- grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives or dates -- you were commanded by the Torah to select some of the choice first-ripened fruits, put them in a basket, bring them to the Holy Temple, and present them to the kohen (priest). The annual gift of the first fruits to the kohen expressed the idea that our material pursuits (whether as a farmer, accountant or graffiti artist) are not an end unto themselves, but exist to serve a higher, spiritual purpose.
Keep the Faith
There is an old joke illustrating the difference between a believer and an atheist:
The believer wakes up, looks up to heaven, and with heartfelt devotion and true gratitude exclaims, “Good morning, G‑d!”
The atheist, by contrast, rolls over one last time, yawns and stretches, strolls over to the window, looks outside and declares, “My G‑d, what a morning!”
Leave the Do-Gooders Alone
Some lessons in the Torah are transmitted in the form of laws; others are conveyed through stories, or even an extra or missing word or letter. Some lessons require a teacher or sage to unlock the message and the relevance to the 21st century; other messages scream out to even the amateurish eye.
Take this one for example:
In this week's Torah reading, we learn about certain individuals who were exempt from participating in battle: He who recently built a home, planted a vineyard, or was fortunate enough to marry his soul-mate.