This morning, on my return from my morning walk, my neighbor, Hollister, surprised me with a wonderful gift. He handed me a bag with the first heads of lettuce harvested from his vegetable garden. I protested that he should keep this precious first harvest for himself, but he insisted that he wanted me to have them. I couldn’t have been more thrilled with the bounty. You see…first fruits, also called Bekurim, are very special.
In the time of the Bais Hamikdash (Holy Temple), first fruits in Israel were considered holy. The farmer would see the first tree and vine fruits emerge and he would tie a ribbon around them. When these first fruits were ripe, they would be brought to the Bais Hamikdash in Jerusalem in a festive and lavish ceremony. These first fruits were dedicated to G-d and given to the priests as G-d’s emissaries in the Holy Temple.
The upcoming holiday of Shavuos is referred to as Chag Habekurim (Holiday of first fruits) because historically, that was the time that these precious first fruits were brought to Jerusalem and donated to the priests in the Holy Temple.
Since we no longer have the Bais Hamikdash, we no longer have this ritual, yet we understand its significance. It is based upon a deep sense of appreciation and gratitude to G-d for producing an agricultural harvest. After all the work that the gardener or farmer puts into tilling, planting, weeding and tending to the fruits, it is so easy to take for granted the miracle of nature. The mere fact that a dry seed grows into a vigorous plant is miraculous. The rain and sunshine that nourish our plants and the earthworms that aerate the soil are gifts from G-d that we must always acknowledge.
Hollister was making me G-d’s emissary. Hollister’s garden is legendary. He tends to it almost every day, weeding and fencing it in to protect his tender vegetables from unwanted invaders. He lovingly waters and manicures it daily, yet he never takes for granted what he has.
We are so lucky to have a neighbor like Hollister. He works hard and always watches out for us. When someone in our family is pulling out of our driverway and he is around, he will stop traffic to help us out of the driveway. Whenever we need anything, Hollister is there for us. We stop to chat whenever we see each other and he always has a kind word to say about our family.
Hollister’s gift of his first bounty was motivated by the same sense of gratitude that our precious Bekurim represented. It was given with a deep-rooted sense of gratitude. For neighbors. For friendship. For miracles.