Parsha Ki Tavo: Basketry for a holy purpose

Dear Scouts:

I love it when we can mix a merit badge skill with Judaism, and that’s exactly what we see in the beginning of Parshat Ki Tavo.  Here, God gives us the mitzvah of offering the Bikkurim (“first fruits”) – the newly ripe fruits of our crops were taken to the Temple and sacrificed in gratitude to God for giving us the Land of Israel.

In the parsha (Deuteronomy 26: 2) we read “You shall take some of the first of every fruit of the ground that you gather from the Land that the Lord, your God, gives you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord, your God, will choose for His Name to rest [the Temple].”

Wealthy people would bring their first fruits in a basket plated in gold or silver, and after the Kohen took the fruits, the basket would be given back to the person.

Poor people would weave their own basket out of reeds.  When they gave the Kohen their basket of fruits, the Kohen would keep the basket because it had been specially made for the holy gift, and the basket became part of the offering.

Such a container might be the same kind of simple vessel you would make for Basketry Merit Badge.  Who would think something so basic as a reed basket could have a holy purpose?

Maybe other simple things can be holy.  Every time we do something with another person, we offer them our fruits – our personality – presented in a basket of our own making.  Perhaps the things we say and the way we treat people each day can be an offering of thanks for the many gifts God has given us.  Something to think about as we approach Rosh Hashanah.

Shabbat Shalom,

Nelson Block