The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: Elul 18, 5766/September 11, 2006

Banishing Doubt

The Torah reading of Ki Teitzei concludes with the commandment to remember the evil Amalek, "how he happened upon you along the way, and smote the hindmost of you, all that were enfeebled in the rear, when you were faint and weary; and he feared not G-d." (Deuteronomy 25:18) The parasha of Ki Tavo, which immediately follows, opens with a description of the first-fruits offering at the Holy Temple:

"And it shall be, when you have come in unto the land which HaShem your G-d has given you for an inheritance, and you possess it, and dwell therein; that you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you shall bring in from your land that HaShem your G-d has given you; and you shall put it in a basket and shall go unto the place which HaShem your G-d shall choose to cause His name to dwell there." (Ibid 26:1-2)

Surely the Torah is teaching us something by tying together these two seemingly unrelated passages. But what? What can the incident of Amalek, which occurred soon after the crossing of the Sea of Reeds have to do with first-fruits in the land of Israel, and going up to the Holy Temple?

The enemy Amalek has many darts in his quiver. He attacks us from without, but also he attacks us from within. Doubt, self doubt, doubt in G-d's providence: these doubts can conquer us spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Doubt is Amalek's most powerful weapon. This is hinted at by the words "how he happened upon you..." as if this act of terrorism was merely a happenstance, a coincidence. As if there is no G-d in the world whose hand guides all things. As if there is no eternal and immovable divide between right and wrong, good and evil. As if our own thoughts and actions don't count for all that much because G-d isn't really watching anyway...

The bringing of the first fruits to the Holy Temple marks the conclusion of a months long effort. By way of analogy, let us examine the process that precedes the simple loaf of bread that we place upon our table: The field is plowed, the seed is planted. The wheat is watered and cultivated. The soil is tilled, the weeds are pulled. The crop is harvested and stored. The wheat is winnowed, the grains are ground and sifted. The flour is baked into bread. We wash our hands, lift the bread, and recite the motzei blessing - thanking "G-d, who has brought forth the bread from the earth." For what exactly are we thanking G-d? There would seem to be no food more labor-intensive and dependent solely upon the sweat of a man's brow than a simple loaf of bread. But we, as the farmer, know that without the rain and the sun in their proper balance; without all the forces of nature being directed by G-d toward the nurturing of the wheat crop; without his efforts being blessed and brought to fruition by G-d Himself, in each and every step "along the way", all his labor would have been in vain. The farmer takes his first fruits and brings them to the Holy Temple. He stands before the High Priest and utters praise to G-d. It is this trust in G-d and gratitude for the blessings which He bestows upon us that vanquish within us all doubt that there is a G-d, and His place is here - among us and within us. When we overcome the doubt with which Amalek embitters our lives, we can then enter into the land of Israel, and go up in thanks and certainty, to the House of the L-rd - the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Join Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven in this week's Temple Talk, as they discuss Amalek, the first-fruits, the approaching Rosh Hashana, and the birth day of the holy Baal Shem Tov, (Elul 18).

Click to hear:

Part 1
Part 2