Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ki Tavo: Bikkurim

You may have noticed my parsha posts have recently veered from analyses of words and parses of sentences to attempts to get to the theme and message behind various Biblical instructions. This, while somewhat homiletical, is also within the realm of peshat.

Parshat Ki Tavo opens with the command to bring bikkurim, the first fruits. I think these two verses capture much of the essence {Devarim 26:10-11}:
י וְעַתָּה, הִנֵּה הֵבֵאתִי אֶת-רֵאשִׁית פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר-נָתַתָּה לִּי, ה; וְהִנַּחְתּוֹ, לִפְנֵי ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, וְהִשְׁתַּחֲוִיתָ, לִפְנֵי ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ. 10 And now, behold, I have brought the first of the fruit of the land, which Thou, O LORD, hast given me.' And thou shalt set it down before the LORD thy God, and worship before the LORD thy God.
יא וְשָׂמַחְתָּ בְכָל-הַטּוֹב, אֲשֶׁר נָתַן-לְךָ ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ--וּלְבֵיתֶךָ: אַתָּה, וְהַלֵּוִי, וְהַגֵּר, אֲשֶׁר בְּקִרְבֶּךָ. {ס} 11 And thou shalt rejoice in all the good which the LORD thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thy house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is in the midst of thee. {S}
The idea here is perhaps similar to a sharecropper who has farmed the land and, having brought in the first of the harvest, gives to the landowner to taste. Here too, the farmer has worked hard to produce these fruits. However, he has been granted this land by Hashem. Thus, he dictates Jewish history briefly, with the conclusion of bringing the Israelites into the land. This is the first of the fruit of the land "which Thou, O LORD, hast given me." When discussing manna and birkat hamazon, there was a similar worry -- in the wilderness, it is clear that God is providing, but even in the land, Hashem does so as well, though in a natural way.

It is easy for a farmer to forget this, giving all the hard work he himself puts into producing his crop. Thus this confession and thanksgiving statement and offering. And thus he rejoices with everyone (pasuk 11), including those who don't own land -- "the Levite and the stranger that is in the midst of thee" -- for everyone is provided for by Hashem, and as a rich landowner, he is no different.

(See e.g. Rashi that this refers to the Levite and stranger who own land, and thus bring bikkurim.)

Even for we who are not farmers, it is a good lesson to internalize.

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