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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Ki Tavo

You Can’t Have One Without The Other

The Bikkurim ceremony is about much more than just one farmer’s gratitude for his individual harvest. It is rather a reminder of the centrality of the Land of Israel, and the inalienable connection we have with this specific little corner of the world.
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The ceremony of Bikurim, which, unfortunately is not done today, was a very special event. The farmer in Israel lovingly brought his first-fruits before the Kohen & made a heart-felt declaration of appreciation to teh Almighty for his ability to bring food (& thus parnasa) from the Land.

All fine & well. But what seems to lend a rather negative, almost whiney quality to what should be a very upbeat ceremony is the preamble, whereby the farmer tells of the
great suffering the Jewish nation endured at the hands of the Aramean (Lavan?) & then later in Egypt.

Is this part of the "persecution complex" we Jews are often accused of having? A propensity to go & blame others for our troubles, always seeking out the dark cloud
that lurks behind every silver lining? ("Such a terrible-tasting sandwich, & such small portions, too!"). Or is something else at work here?

I suggest that the Bikkurim ceremony is about much more than just one farmer’s gratitude for his individual harvest. It is rather a reminder of the centrality – the supremacy, if you will – of the Land of Israel, and the inalienable connection we have with this specific little corner of the world.

The farmer remarks, "Arami oved avi," which can mean "my father (Yakov) was a wandering Aramean." Yakov searched for a home, & perhaps, at some point, thought
he had found it in Goshen, where all of his family lived quite well. But then we learned how quickly Jewish fortunes could change in the Galut. The same Egyptians who hosted us, soon hated us, & sought our demise. It became clear that Egypt was not our eternal home.

Am Yisrael is called "the first of nations;" in a sense, we are G-d’s first fruits, Hashem’s b’chorim, or, better, bikurim. Just as only the 7 special fruits of Israel (the "sheva minim") could be brought as bikurim, so, too, Eretz Yisrael is designated as the purest soil in which a Jew can grow. This message, amplified countless times by all
the farmers in an agricultural society, reinforce the message that the People & the Land of Israel are one unit. The farmer is not bemoaning his past; he is rather accentuating the good fortune of his present.

To bring this message dramatically home, the farmer concludes his remarks by saying: "Hashem, look down from Heaven & bless your nation; Israel; & the land." ("Et amcha; et Yisrael, et ha’adama"). The unique phrasing of this statement, with a pause between "nation," "Israel," and "land") comprises a 3-fold bracha that encompasses
the people, the state, & the very land itself. All are holy, & together they make up one complete, indestructible set.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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