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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Ki Tavo

Parashat Ki Tavo

Bikurim

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The ceremony of bringing bikurim to the Temple served as a catalyst to reinforce the feeling of unity. The Mishna (Bikurim 3:2-3) describes how the farmers of a particular region would gather in the central town to bring their bikurim to Jerusalem together. As the farmers reached Jerusalem, the capital’s shopkeepers and professionals would go out to greet them.

It is, of course, of great significance that bikurim were brought to the Temple. Bringing bikurim is an expression of the farmer’s awareness of his partnership with God. Recognizing his status as God’s junior partner, he delivers the first ripened fruit to the true land owner in His "home".

There is another aspect of bringing bikurim to Jerusalem. The farmer takes the beginning of his harvest to the national and spiritual center of the Land of Israel. In so doing, the farmer acknowledges himself as part of the whole. He has toiled throughout the agricultural season not only for his own gain, but on behalf of all his brothers and sisters living in the Holy Land. The lawyers, psychologists and shopkeepers of Jerusalem came out to greet the farmers as they arrived in Jerusalem with their bikurim (Mishna, Bikurim 3:3) as a way of expressing their appreciation of all the hard labor invested by the farmers in order to feed them.

The national aspect of bringing bikurim is most pronounced in the ceremonial recitation which accompanied bringing bikurim to the altar (Deuteronomy 26:5-10). The farmer surveys Israel’s history, reciting the entire passage in the plural. Only upon completing the historical review does the farmer move to the singular "and now, behold I have brought of the first fruit of the Land which you, God have given me ..." (Deuteronomy 26:10). The verses present the appropriate perspective: the farmer (or an Israelite of any profession) must relate to himself first as part of the community, and only then may he see himself as an individual.

The next verse confirms this approach: "And you shall rejoice with all the good which God, your God has given you and to your house, you and the Levite and the stranger in your midst" (Deuteronomy 26:11). Ideally, the individual rejoices as part of Klal Yisrael, the totality of Israel.

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