The Poor Man's Basket
Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8 )
In this week's Torah portion we learn of the mitzvah of Bikkurim, the first fruits where rich and poor alike would travel to Jerusalem and gift the first of their crops to the priest in an elaborate ceremony.
Interestingly, when the wealthy brought their first fruits on silver and golden trays, the priests would return the trays to the owners. However, when the poor brought their fruit in reed baskets, they would not return the baskets to them.
Surely it’s the poor that would need their baskets back?
Rav Aharon Boxt explains that the Torah is not demonstrating insensitivity to the poor. In fact, it's quite the opposite.
The poor person has a miserable crop. His “first fruits” consist of a few grapes and a couple of other fruits. To have this removed from the basket would be a humiliating experience for the donor, emphasizing his poverty.
The Torah feels that a person’s dignity is worth more than the price of the basket. One can make more money, but to recover dignity is much harder!
Another timeless lesson for the way that we do acts of kindness and treat those who are vulnerable.
Give charity and help wherever we can, but preserve the dignity of the recipient at the same time.
(Adapted from article by Rabbi Frand)