Were you one of the people in line this week for the new IPhone?
One of the most common themes that we see in advertising is the use of the words “The First”, to lure buyers to purchase a new product. In 2014, the Consumer Electronics Association hosted a record 160,498 people in Las Vegas for “the world’s gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies.” Those who attended wanted to be there to see all of the new “firsts” in office and computer technology. The fast rate of change in technology drives us to anticipate new products and ideas. We commit ourselves financially without second thoughts so that we can have “the first” of a new phone, computer or gadget in our possession. But is the first always the best?
In this week’s parsha, Moses reminds the Jewish people that when they enter the land of Israel, they must remember to bring their “first fruits/bikkurim” to the Tabernacle or Temple as part of the holiday rituals. The Torah uses the word “Reisheet” to describe the fruits. Rashi presents two interpretations for this word. The fruits that were meant to be brought to the Temple had to be either the first or the best of the fruits. According to Jewish law, the Jews had to actually go out into the fields and put a string on the first fruit they saw growing as a reminder to bring these as a thank you to God for a bountiful harvest. However, others disagree and state that the Jews only had to bring their best fruit to the Temple. So which is better, first or best?
When something is the “first”, it doesn’t always make it the best. Although there are times in our lives when it is a goal to be the first, I believe that our society and our parenting messages must be wary of emphasizing this value too often. When you follow your values and morality, others might come in first, but hopefully you will be the best.
What are the advantages of being the “best” rather than the “first’? I think there are three main advantages: experience, expertise and expectations.
When Apple came out with the Ipod, it was not the first MP3 player in the world. Apple was not the first to come up with the technology but sales numbers today would support the fact that the Ipod is the best MP3 player on the market. Apple took the previous technology experiences of MP3 design and improved it. Not only was Apple able to improve their product from experience, but they continue to strive for being the best by developing their levels of expertise. And finally, Apple continues to hold their company to being the best by keeping high expectations all the way from their engineers who design products to their models of customer service delivery.
When we teach values to our children, we must keep in mind the Torah’s message of being the best rather than the first. Although we cannot deny the realities of living in a competitive world, winning is not always about coming first. We win when we become more knowledgeable through our experiences and failures. We win when can achieve a level of expertise which demonstrates a sound understanding of our purpose and goals. And we win when we can have strong personal expectations for growth within ourselves as individuals. The first fruit appears on the tree quickly, but the best fruits are grown with experience, expertise and continuously modified expectations.
May we be blessed with our best fruits and new goals and ideas during the coming year.