הרב משה ברלינר, תשס”ג
This week’s parashah opens with the extraordinary ceremony of the bringing of the First Fruits to the Temple in Jerusalem. In the course of that rite, in an act that establishes gratitude as a central motif in Jewish life, the individual recites the passage beginning with the words, “Arami oved avi,’ “A wandering Aramean was my father” – the text that reverberates yearly in Jewish homes as the core of the Pesach Haggadah.
A careful reading of the opening of the parashah reveals two major themes that merge together with the concept of thankfulness. The parashah begins with the words “Vehayah ki tavo el ha’aretz” – “And it shall be, when you come into the land.” This verse is formulated in the singular. The Torah exhorts each individual to assume personal responsibility to come to Israel. One should not say that when all the Jews come, then I will find a way to accompany them. The Torah is precise – the responsibility rests upon each and every one of us.
A second theme is elucidated in the Midrash. The Midrash explains that the first word of the parashah, “Vehayah,” “And it shall come to pass,” is always an indication of joy. Coming to Israel is perhaps the ultimate expression of Jewish joy. As the Or Hahayyim notes, before we begin Birkhat Hamazon on Shabbat, we recite the psalm containing the following verse: “Beshuv Hashem et shivat Tzion”—“When Hashem brought back the captivity of Zion” – “az yimale sehok pinu”—“then was our mouth filled with laughter.”
Thus, three themes appear in the first words of our parashah – thankfulness, joy, and the responsibility falling upon each individual to return to Zion. May those of us privileged to live in Israel strive to experience daily the joy of living a full Jewish life in Zion and express our gratitude for the opportunity afforded us. And may those who have not yet found the way to return to our Land deepen their understanding and grow in strength so that they may join their brothers already living there speedily in our days.
Courtesy of Aloh Na’aleh, an organization dedicated to building Aliya motivation among North American Jewry. Contact them at: email@example.com