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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

First Fruits

Parshat Ki Tavo is known for its blessings and curses. Although the blessings and curses take up a good part of this whispered parsha, the beginning of Parshat Ki Tavo deals with bringing first fruits. It is with a sense of accomplishment and joy that these first fruits are brought. The exodus from Egypt is linked to the entrance to The Land and the absolute joy of bringing first fruits, grown in the soil of The Land, to the priest. So many central ideas are linked here! Slavery and freedom, the land and its bounty, kindness to others and giving back to God with gratitude.

I'd like to look a bit differently at the idea of First Fruits, which is so beautifully presented in Parshat Ki Tavo. Although we no longer bring our first fruits before the priest, we experience "first fruits" on different occasions in our lives. These "first fruit" experiences do not occur every day; in fact, they are rare, which is all the more reason to savor them fully and joyfully.

Wishing you a thoughtful Elul and although it is still Tuesday, we are on the way to Shabbat and so I wish you a Shabbat Shalom.



First Fruits

In a cluttered room


anywhere, really,

sits a baby

nearly nine months by now.

Eight tiny white teeth,

two chubby, clumsy legs,

two hands reaching out

with ten sticky fingers.

Those around her,

like planets circling the sun

are enraptured,


as she points to her father

and says the word


with a wide, wet grin.

First fruits,

precious fruits;

genuinely offered.

Accepted with love

* *

On a kitchen door

crookedly hangs

a smudged paper,

ripped unevenly from a drawing pad.

On the paper is a large circle not quite finished,

two widely staring round eyes

and a slanted line that serves as a mouth.

Two lines extend from the orb,

They reach outward and across the page

Multiple lines extend awkwardly from their tips.

Some lines waver like water,

while others fade away.

This first drawing,

blemished and bumpy,

is perfect in its imperfections;

this first fruit.

First fruits,

precious fruits

Offered with exuberance

Accepted with love.


A local community center,

cold with over-zealous air conditioning.

Small children sit on plastic folding chairs,

sheet music held in clammy hands.

Little legs swinging, don't quite reach the floor.

The children shuffle and shift in their seats

waiting for their turn to be called.

When called, one child bravely rises,

walking stiffly to the piano,

as formal as a six year old musician can be.

He is seated and settled,

a bit rumpled now.

The teacher hovers just past the piano,

silently urging him on.

A shaky breath.

His sweaty fingers stick to the keys.

His feet nervously swing

as he plays the first notes

E, E, F, G,

G, F, E, D

The notes of Ode to Joy*

are played,

maybe pounded;

loud and

with great feeling.

The parents are there,

cameras ready;

proudly catching

those first notes

as they fly through the air.

First fruits.

Precious fruits,

offered with a heart

as full as the harvest moon.



The best of the best,

accepted with love.


do you hear?


do you see?

First fruits are singing to you.

We cried to יהוה, the God of our ancestors, and יהוה heard our plea and saw our plight, our misery, and our oppression. יהוה freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, and by signs and portents, bringing us to this place and giving us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

וְעַתָּ֗ה הִנֵּ֤ה הֵבֵ֙אתִי֙ אֶת־רֵאשִׁית֙ פְּרִ֣י הָאֲדָמָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־נָתַ֥תָּה לִּ֖י יְהֹוָ֑ה וְהִנַּחְתּ֗וֹ לִפְנֵי֙ יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ וְהִֽשְׁתַּחֲוִ֔יתָ לִפְנֵ֖י יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ׃

Wherefore I now bring the first fruits of the soil which You, יהוה, have given me.” You shall leave it*it I.e., the basket before your God יהוה and bow low before your God יהוה.

And you shall enjoy, together with the [family of the] Levite and the stranger in your midst, all the bounty that your God יהוה has bestowed upon you and your household.

Deuteronomy 26:7-11 (from Sefaria)


*( ODE TO JOY by Ludwig von Beethhoven

(I hope you will watch is indeed five minutes of joy.

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