Beit Midrash

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To dedicate this lesson

“You Shall Call Out and Say”


Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli zt"l

The bringing of bikurim (first fruit) to the Beit Hamikdash is accompanied by a unique declaration that the Torah mandates with the command "v’anita va’amarta" (you shall call out and say) (Devarim 26:5). The declaration includes not only a short description of Jewish history from the exile in Egypt, as they were becoming a nation, but also goes back to the roots of the nation at the time of the forefathers ("Arami oved avi"). It is strange that one must make the pronouncement in a full voice, which is halachically unusual. Of course, one does not have to speak loudly for Hashem, who hears the prayers of His nation, Israel, so that He should hear. Did Eliyahu not mock the priests of the Ba’al, suggesting that they speak louder because maybe their god was sleeping? Chana, who provided the prototype of proper prayer, did so with "only her mouth was moving, while her voice was not to be heard" (Shmuel I, 1:13).
All of these points teach us that the declaration is not for Hashem to hear our acknowledgement that it was not our strength and skill that brought us produce. Rather the Torah wants the declarer and the rest of the Jews in his proximity to hear, especially: "for I have come to the Land that Hashem swore to our forefathers to give to us" (Devarim 26:3). They should all realize that the conquest of the Land of Israel did not come by sword but that it was given to the Children of Israel as a present by He who created the world and divided it among the nations. This declaration should give us confidence that we have the moral right to inhabit the Land and not be perturbed by the classic call of the nations: "You are thieves" (see Rashi, Bereishit 1:1).
The Jewish people have three special characteristics: compassion, modesty, and proclivity to help others. Compassion for others is a wonderful trait that can help mold a society based on the values of justice and truth. However, it can also warp logic and cause "national suicide." This is the conclusion we can arrive at after seeing this week the strange alliance in the demonstration on behalf of those who were uprooted from the villages of Biram and Ikrit (Christian Arab villages near the Lebanese border, which were uprooted in 1948). The joint assemblage of holders of the cross and Jews, in theory came in the name of justice, but was based on the old slander that the Jewish settlement of Israel is thievery.
In the bikurim declaration we say that the Aramite went about destroying my father (ibid.:5). The Torah knew that the same people who try to destroy us will also hide their enmity for us. The descendants of those who tried to kill us throughout history until our time now say they just want justice and peace. Since we are susceptible to gullibility in this matter, we are to "call out and say..." As the p’sukim say, Hashem swore to give this Land to our forefathers, and we are not the thieves. Those who removed us from our Land of Heritage are the thieves, and we are just returning to reclaim it.
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