You shall then recite as follows before the Lord your God: ‘My father was a fugitive Aramean. He went down to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there; but there he became a great and very populous nation…
Sound familiar? These verses play a central role in the narrative of the Passover seder, establishing the Israelites as slaves in Egypt and recounting the miracle of their exodus. They also highlight a concept present throughout much of this week’s Torah reading: gratitude.
Ki Tavo is known for its litany of curses that will befall the Jewish people if God’s laws and rules are not obeyed. The chapter preceding the curses, however, focuses on the formula to be said when bringing an offering of one’s harvest to the Temple. This juxtaposition reminds us that even in the times of plenty, we must take a moment to appreciate the struggles involved in reaching a moment of bounty and blessing.
These verses resonated with me at a recent interfaith meeting I attended, where I heard my colleague Anne Golightly, a lay leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, discuss the truckloads of food she was preparing to receive for donation to local hunger-related charities:
As part of Day to Serve, which is a regional initiative to elevate our level of service in the Greater Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia area, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides an offering of many pounds of food from our storehouses in Utah. This year 160,000 pounds of food will [be distributed in our region, including] 20,000 pounds to the Capital Area Food Bank in DC, and 60,000 pounds to the Maryland Food Bank. Other deliveries will follow to three foodbanks in Virginia and two in West Virginia.
Anne explained that her reason for sharing this information us was not to give accolades to her specific faith group, but rather to shine a light on the extreme need in our area. She commented:
We feel it's important to prepare and be self-reliant, so this warehousing of food that we also grow and produce, is a way we do that. When there are great needs beyond our own, we love to share.
All faith communities know the feeling of journeying to a new place, creating community, and building for the future. It is a moment of pride when a community is able to say they have enough to provide for themselves and recognize the importance of offering to others, elevating their harvest from simple nourishment to an expression of sacred gratitude.