Preppers and Ki Tavo

In the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo we read,

And it shall be, when you come in unto the land which the Lord your God has given you for an inheritance, and possess it, and dwell therein;  that you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you shall bring in from your land that the Lord your God has given you…(Deuteronomy 26:1-2)

On the eve of finishing their 40-year journey in the desert and actually starting their real lives, being a people in a land, Moshe instructs the people to give of their first fruits. They will just have received the land from God, and they will have to turn around and give away the fruit of their labor. What is the meaning of this gift?

On one level it is through the process of gift giving which we can come to recognize the myriad of gifts that we have received to get us to that point. On another level we have to try to imagine what the Israelites were experiencing when they learned this commandment in the desert.

Contemplating this I got to thinking about the “preppers” movement. There survivalists actively prepare for emergencies, including possible disruptions in social or political order, on scales from local to international. The emphasis is on self-reliance, stockpiling supplies, and gaining survival knowledge and skills. Survivalists often acquire emergency medical and self-defense training, stockpile food and water, prepare to become self-sufficient, and build structures such as survival retreats or underground shelters that may help them survive a catastrophe.

As the aphorism goes, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” These “preppers” are getting ready for the worst.

After surviving in the desert for 40 years on their daily stockpile of Manna we have to imagine the Israelites were craving some fresh produce. These “preppers” would have deeply appreciated access to land to cultivate in this new land. And the first fruit would have seemed like a real gift.

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