The Freshest Grain

Vayikra | Shavuot By :  Ofra Arieli Backenroth Associate Dean of The Davidson School and Assistant Professor of Jewish Education Posted On Mar 31, 2017 / 5777 | דבר אחר | A Different Perspective | Israel Natural World

If you bring a meal offering of the first fruit to the Lord, you shall bring grain in season parcel with fire, grits of fresh ear, as your meal offering of first fruits. . . . And the priest shall turn a token portion of it into smoke: some of the grits and oil, with all of the frankincense, as an offering by the fire to the Lord (Lev. 2:14–16).

In a long narrative dedicated to sacrifices we find one hidden command to offer only the freshest and best grains, mixed with oils and scents. Through a multi sensory description the reader can sense the heavy kernels of grains, smell the scents, and vicariously participate in the powerful event of giving thanks to God with the offering of the first fruit.

One of my most vivid childhood memories is the offering of the first fruit during the holiday of Shavuot in a kibbutz in Israel. The difference between working the land and observing the biblical laws of the holiday disappear as the whole community participates in the most colorful, happy, and opulent celebration. Children wearing white cloths, adorned with flower wreaths on their heads, sit on the tractors and other heavy machinery, participate in a parade of dancing troupes and singing choruses. Observing the holiday away from our land and the natural home of our religion makes me long for the experiential aspect of giving thanks to God.