Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ki Tavoh -74 Being grateful is not easy

Our portion-parasha   Ki Tavo starts of the mitzvah – commandment to dedicate the first fruits of our labors to God by bringing them to the Beit Ha'mikdash – Temple in Jerusalem – Deuteronomy/ Devarim 26:1-11. . The bringing of the ' Bikkurim' took place mainly from Shavuot to Succot and was accompanied by a moving declaration of gratitude to God for ' redeeming us   from the hardships of Laban and Egypt and bringing us to the land of Israel. '

Being grateful is a challenge as we tend to ascribe success to our own doing and forget God's crucial support, without which we could not succeed.  We also tend to forget people who have helped us along the way. From this mitzvah we learn to be grateful to God and express gratitude to all those who have helped us when we reflect and speak about the milestones we have reached and success we have achieved.

But more challenging is when we are faced with a crop that has 'failed'. Even from the little that there is, we have to take and dedicate our 'Bikkurim' – the first fruits. Because  the Mishnah says -  Bikkurim don't have a ' sh'iur' , a minimum quantity,  you have to dedicate something .  Even if the fruits of our labors are miserable, we have to make our declaration and as the verse states – rejoice with all the goodness that Hashem, your God, has given you and your household together with the poor of your community.   וְשָׂמַחְתָּ בְכָל-הַטּוֹב, אֲשֶׁר נָתַן-לְךָ ה'    .Celebrating and being grateful for success and sharing your success with others is not so challenging as the celebrating and being grateful for a miserable crop yield. Also the declaration is only said if the first fruits are brought between Shavuot and Succot and not after Succot. This is because the period after Succot, is  after the harvest has been gathered and therefore  is not called a time for rejoicing.

The verse says that we should rejoice and be glad with ALL the goodness that Hashem, your God has given you.  And this means searching within ourselves and discovering  what we can be grateful about. Being grateful does not depend on something ' external to us ' or being the receptacles of someone else's goodness. It is a characteristic, it is a need within us to feel grateful and express it.  We are grateful for life, our relationship with God, the Torah  and the opportunities to do good and  mitzvoth. We are not only grateful for the first fruit but more so for the opportunity to perform the mitzvah-commandment  of ' Bikkurim ', to dedicate the first fruits of our labors to God, in fact to dedicate our labor to God. In our declaration of gratitude to God, we do not thank God for the fruit, but we thank God for gift of  the land. The bringing of the fruit is just a way we express our gratitude for having a holy home close to God. . And the best time are the festivals of Shavuot until the end of Succot , a season full of opportunities to make a contribution and do mitzvoth

As parents and teachers we can model being   people who are happy, grateful and always see the glass half full. When kids don't meet our expectations or make mistakes, our disappointment, or even anger can get in the way of how we view the whole  child. Suddenly we are no longer grateful for the gift of this child , we don't see the whole picture – a child with wonderful attributes who has now made a mistake. When kids make mistakes or experience failure we can still see the positive and say they are doing their best as the CPS - collaborative solving mantra tells us ' children do well if they can . We don't need to be critical , just collaborate with them to solve the problem. Mistakes and failure are windows for new opportunities for growth and improvement. Being grateful is not just  being happy with what we have been given, but being grateful for opportunities to make a contribution and grow despite the challenges we face.

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