This week’s Torah reading begins with the mitzvah of Bikkurim, the first fruits which are brought as an offering to Jerusalem. Living far away from agricultural communities, it is hard for us to appreciate the sacrifice involved in this mitzvah. Think for a moment: For an entire winter and spring, a farmer has been tending to his fields and orchards and preparing his crops. Finally, in the early summer, his produce begins to ripen.

May he partake of it himself? May he sell it for a profit?

No. The first fruits must be set aside and taken to be offered in the Temple.

Why does the Torah ask this of a person? Why doesn’t it allow him a little satisfaction before making demands of him?

With this mitzvah , the Torah is teaching us hakaras hatov, the appreciation of the good G‑d bestows upon us. The produce did not grow by itself. Were it not for G‑d’s blessings, neither the farmer nor his land, and certainly not his produce, would exist. In appreciation for G‑d’s kindness, the farmer does more than simply offer a verbal expression of thanks. He makes a special journey to Jerusalem to show his gratitude.

This explanation enables us to appreciate why shortly after describing the mitzvah of the first fruits, the Torah reading mentions a covenant established between the G‑d and the Jewish people with regard to the entire Torah. For in a larger sense, this mitzvah relates to every aspect of our Torah observance. He grants us life, health, and well-being. And He has told us that He desires that we observe His Torah. In gratitude and appreciation, we fulfill His will.