The First or the Best?

Deuteronomy 26-27
Romans 11.16

In Parsha Ki Tavo we are commanded to place the first of the produce of the land in a basket and take it to the priest, who is to take that basket and place it before the altar. The question before us today is why is the first required and not the best? What is it about beginnings that makes their dedication so important?

There are two answers to this question, both important. The first answer is that beginnings form a foundation upon which the remainder of the enterprise is built. Those who have been in construction understand that time, effort and money spent on the foundation pays dividends later in the project. If the foundation is not solid, level and true the building may not stand. Even if it does, the amount of time and labor needed to compensate for a poor foundation during the rest of the job will be many times greater than any possible savings from skimping at the start.

This principle is at work in God's instructions to the nation for entering the land of Israel. They were to set up a monument on the other side of the river upon which they were to write the Torah. They were to proceed to Mt Eval where they pronounce curses upon those who sin in secret. They were to bring the first fruits of the harvest before God and verbally acknowledge that all of their wealth comes from Him.

A very good structure can be made with common materials if the foundation is sound. Paul echos this principle in Romans when he says of the Jewish people, "For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches."

The second answer has to do with trust. If you bring the first to God, you are saying that you trust in Him that what follows will be enough to sustain you. While this may not be so obvious in agriculture where you bring the first of an entire field, it is more so in finances where you pay your tithe first and trust in Him to get you through to the next paycheck.

In either case, beginnings are important to God and so to us.