Speak to the nation of Israel, and say to them: When enter the land which I give to you, and you reap the harvest thereof, then you shall bring a sheaf of the beginning of your harvest to the priest.Leviticus 23:10
The beginning of your harvest: The first of that which you harvest.Rashi
In the biblical era, the spring festival of Passover coincided with the first harvest of the year, the barley harvest; in fact, it is thought that the celebration of Passover was timed to co-opt a spring barley-harvest festival that was already happening, because it’s easy to get people to celebrate when they are already accustomed to celebrating. We just add the remembrance of our Origin Story event of leaving Egypt in order to (a) give the festival a deeper meaning to our people and (b) ensure the perennial revisiting of a pivotal moment in our development.
The next pivotal moment after leaving Egypt was receiving the revelation of Torah at Sinai, approximately seven weeks later, which we celebrate as the festival of Shavuot fifty days after the first day of Passover. In the interim we bring an omer (“sheaf”) of barley ever day. In modern times, when almost none of us is a barley farmer, we commemorate this by adding a passage to the evening prayers, every day for 49 days (starting the second night of Passoer), in which we “count the omer” by reciting which day of the omer period it is.
But prior to the counting is setting aside part of the harvested barley as an offering. Which part? Should you wait and see how much your harvest yields, and then, once you’ve subtracted your needs, donate the rest?
Where the Torah says you should bring a sheaf from the beginning of the harvest to the priests, as an offering to God expressing gratitude for sustaining you, Rashi weighs in with a clarification: You should bring the first of that which you harvest. Show your gratitude BEFORE knowing how much you will receive.
Isn’t this a powerful notion? What would it be like to say thank you for a gift before you even unwrap it?
While many of us work hard for what we have, I think most of us would acknowledge that much of our blessings depend on the help and generosity of others. Whether you think of that outside help as the work of God or the fortune of friendship and teamwork – personally, I think it’s all of the above – I’d like to challenge you to lead with gratitude; that is, show your appreciation at the act of giving itself, regardless of the quantity of what’s given, and perhaps before you even know whether the gift is your size.
Question of the day: What’s something you are super grateful that you have in your life, that might have been a small thing for the person who gave it to you, but it’s a big deal to you? Please let me know in the comments below.