Does wealth matter? D'var Torah on Parashat Ki Tavo
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Thursday 26th August 2021


The Torah commands Jews living in Israel in Temple times to select bikkurim, first-ripened fruits, bring them to the Holy Temple in a basket, and present them to the kohen (priest). This mitzvah of bikkurim applied to rich and poor alike.

The annual gift of the first fruits to the kohen expressed the idea that our material pursuits are not an end in themselves, but serve a higher, spiritual purpose. They also denoted a gratitude to the One above for meeting our material needs.

Since the Torah emphasises that the bikkurim are to be brought in a basket, the Talmud explains what happened to it: “The rich would bring their bikkurim in baskets of silver and gold, while the poor would bring them in baskets woven of palm leaves or straw.” The rich took their baskets home while the poor left theirs with the Kohen.

We could see this as targeting the poor: even the simple basket that they use is taken away, making them even poorer!

But we can see it differently: the poor left empty-handed because their whole gift had been accepted, whereas the rich person’s basket was rejected.

Perhaps this was so because the poor person’s simple basket represented a great sacrifice, whereas the rich person’s ornamentation of gold or silver was a less significant outlay for them. It is harder to serve God with less but the effort involved has a special place in His heart.

Ki Tavo is always read shortly before Rosh Hashanah, when God fixes our income for the coming year. The lesson of the basket is a timely reminder that it isn’t our wealth which matters, it’s what we do with the resources which God gives us. Shana tova.

Rebbetzen Rachie Lister is the Senior Rebbetzen of Edgware United Synagogue

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