Every so often, with all of the negatives that surround us, God provides a reminder as to why we chose to live here. Today brought just such a reminder.
Our seven year old daughter, Moriah, attends the Gush Etzion regional elementary school in Alon Shvut. This morning we were invited to participate in a ceremony commemorating the bringing of the Bikkurim ('The First Fruits') to the Bet HaMiqdash. Of course, this was done in advance of Shavuoth, the 'Hag HaBikkurim.' (Though, the Bikkurim mentioned by the Torah are a 'meal offering' and the Mishnah says that Bikkurim were brought from Shavuoth until Sukkot.) It was an amazingly beautiful and emotional ceremony.
The parents all gathered in the square of the commercial center of Alon Shvut, in front of the central shul. From the left we heard drums and a trumpter. Leading a procession of little kids was a group of miniature levites (real levi'im), and behind them was a goat all decorated with flowers. (The Mishnah requires a cow with gilded horns, but this was fine too). Then came hundreds of kids in blue and white, with garlands on their heads and sundry baskets of fruits in their hands.
From their midst emerged twenty (or so) junior kohanim, dressed in white ponchos, tied at the waist with blue cloth belts. They went barefoot up to the steps of the shul. At the signal, representatives of each class went up and presented their baskets to the kohen, just as the Mishnah describes. At the same time, the kids in the square recited the Bikkurim declaration:
'I profess this day unto the Lord your G-d, that I have come to the land which God swore to our fathers to give us'...'A wandering Aramean was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there, few in number; and he became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous. And the Egyptians dealt ill with us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage. And we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice, and saw our affliction, and our toil, and our oppression. And God brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great awe, and with signs, and with wonders. And He has brought us to this place, and has given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought the first of the fruit of the land, which You, O Lord, have given me.'
I was really on the verge of tears (my daughter is also very cute). Here are all of these Jewish parents and children, in Eretz Yisrael, invoking the Hava'at HaBikkurim with such quiet joy. What a beautiful sight it was! Then we all adjourned to the shul to learn a Parshat Shavua sheet together with our children. What a zekhut! [While everyone was getting settled, I glanced at Rashi on the Vidui Bikkurim. Rashi cites the Sifre, that goes against the obvious meaning of the verse and serves as the basis of the Pesach Hagaddah. The bottom line in Rashi is: Mir vellen zei uberleben.
Timely words at a breathtaking moment.]