Parashat Ki Tavo begins with Moses continuing his final speech to the People of Israel. The opening words mean “when you come,” and refer to the rituals surrounding the Israelites’ entrance to the Promised Land. He instructs the Israelites to bring the first-ripened fruits of their orchards as an offering to the priests in the Temple to declare their gratitude for all that God has done for them.
Isn’t it obvious that the Israelites would count their blessings and give thanks to God after forty years of food insecurity in the wilderness? Here, giving thanks is about more than just stopping to savour the moment and appreciate the struggle it took to get there. It’s about recognizing God as the source of their blessings, and acknowledging that they could not have done it by themselves. The Israelites are commanded to share their first fruits not only with the priests, but also with the poor, the needy, and the stranger.
“When you come” to campus now at the start of a new school year, it’s important for us to recognize everything we should be grateful and appreciative for in our lives, both at home and in the workplace. We must practice “Hakarat Hatov,” much more than just a simple ‘thank you,’ but an authentic appreciation for the good we have received. Practicing gratitude contributes to our overall well-being, and as we fall into the hustle and bustle of a new year, we should find just a bit of time to introduce this practice to our students, our colleagues, and our personal routines. Because we can all get a little caught up in the moment.
Shira Unterman, Program Director & Ezra Fellow, Hillel at University of Toronto (Hillel Ontario)