מעצרת ועד החג מביא (ביכורים) וקורא
From Atzeret (Shavuot) until Sukkot one brings Bikkurim and recites the declaration. (Mishnah, Bikkurim 1:6)

והיה כי תבוא אל הארץ אשר ה' אלקיך נתן לך נחלה וירשתה וישבתה בה
It will be when you enter the land that Hashem, your G‑d, gives you as an inheritance and you will take possessions and dwell in it. (Devarim 26:1)

QUESTION: Rashi writes that since the Torah connects the mitzvah of Bikkurim with taking possession of the land and dwelling in the land, the Jews were not obligated to bring Bikkurim until the entire land of Canaan was conquered and apportioned. (Fourteen years after entering into the land.)

The bringing of Bikkurim shows that we are not unappreciative and we express our gratitude for receiving the land. Why shouldn’t each individual have brought Bikkurim as soon as he received his portion of land and harvested it?

ANSWER: The purpose of the mitzvah of Bikkurim is to demonstrate gratitude and give praise to Hashem for the good He did for us in bringing us to Eretz Yisrael and affording us the opportunity to enjoy the fruits for which the land is praised.

Since the Torah says “Vesamachta bechol hatov” — “You shall rejoice with all the goodness that Hashem has given you” — it is derived that the offerror must be in a state of joy. Therefore, the Bikkurim declaration is recited only during the period between Shavuot and Sukkot, which is a harvest season. It is not offered twice a year (even if the tree yielded two crops in one year) because the level of simchah — joy — is lessened if it occurs more than once a year.

The mitzvah of Bikkurim emphasizes two aspects: the yachid — individual — and also the tzibbur — collective body of Klal Yisrael. On one hand, it is a mitzvah for the individual. Every landowner brings Bikkurim from his field. On the other hand, there is a collective sense to the mitzvah, for it applies only when complete equality prevails among the entire Klal Yisrael.

Consequently, when one member of the community is lacking and did not yet receive and enjoy his portion of the land, every single Jew is affected and is not in a true state of happiness and joy. All are therefore exempt from bringing Bikkurim.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"ט ע' 152)

Shavuot and Bikkurim — Common Denominator

Perhaps it could be said that the mitzvah of Bikkurim is connected with Shavuot — the time of the giving of the Torah — because they have a common denominator.

In both there is an emphasis on the individual and the entire populace of klal Yisrael. The Ten Commandments were said in singular to each individual, and it is the obligation of each individual to study Torah and observe its precepts. In contrast, for the giving of the Torah to be possible, the collective body of 600,000 Jews was a prerequisite. The Midrash (Rabbah, Devarim 7:8) states that were one Jew of the total 600,000 missing, Hashem would not have revealed Himself to give the Torah at Sinai. (See Likkutei Sichot vol. 18, p. 115.)

Similarly, the mitzvah of Bikkurim, is a chovat yachid — an obligation of each individual — however, the initiation of the mitzvah was contingent on the happiness of all the 600,000 of the entire Jewish people — that is, the apportionment of the land to the entire collective body of Klal Yisrael.

"ולקחתם מראשית כל פרי האדמה...ושמת בטנא והלכת אל המקום אשר יבחר ה' אלקיך לשכן שמו שם"
“That you shall take of the first of every fruit of the ground... and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that G‑d, your G‑d, will choose, to make His name rest there.” (26:2)

QUESTION: The Mishnah (Bikkurim ch. 3) describes in minute detail and picturesque language how these fruits were gathered, packed, and carried on the shoulders of the pilgrims all the way to the Beit Hamikdash, and how the dignitaries greeted their brethren with music and song.

Bikkurim is included among the items that “ein lahem shiyur” — have no specified quantities (Pei’ah 1:1). One might observe this mitzvah by giving anything — one cluster of grapes, or a few dates or olives — for an entire orchard. Another contribution was ma’aseir sheini. This was also to be brought to Jerusalem, but quietly without pageantry and fanfare. No special tribute was paid to the farmer for his gift, and no music was played in his honor.

Why did the bringing of the first-fruits arouse joy and excitement while the giving of tithes occurred without notice?

ANSWER: The farmer works very hard, tilling his land, pruning his trees, and trying to keep the insects from ruining his crops. Finally, after much anxiety and toil, he beholds the first ripe fruit. What joy floods his heart! He would like to taste the fruit or give it to his wife and children, but he cannot, for the first ripe fruits belong to Hashem. So he takes a blade of grass, ties it to the fruit and calls it “Bikkurim.” He then takes the fruit to the Beit Hamikdash in Jerusalem, where special tribute is paid to him for having the strength of character and loyalty to Hashem to give even before seeing his full harvest.

Ma’aseir sheini, on the other hand, comes much later. At the conclusion of the harvest, when the produce of the land is stored safely in the storehouse, the tithe is given. Giving at so late a date, when the farmer’s granaries and storehouses are packed to overflowing, does not deserve special recognition or tribute. It is a duty performed in accordance with the requirements of the law, but no more.

The lesson for us is that it is not how much one gives, but when and how.

(הרב דוב ארי' ז"ל בערזאן)

"ובאת אל הכהן אשר יהיה בימים ההם"
“And you shall come to whomever will be the Kohen in those days.” (26:3)

QUESTION: The words “bayamim haheim” — “in those days” — seem superfluous. Obviously one can only come to a contemporary Kohen and not to one of a previous generation?

ANSWER: This parshah discusses bringing Bikkurim to the Beit Hamikdash and giving it to the Kohanim. Afterwards it discusses the giving of the tithes to the Levites. In contemporary times there are no Kohanim or Levitesserving in the Beit Hamikdash. However, the Gemara (Ketubot 105b) says, “When someone brings a present to a talmid chacham — Torah scholar — it is as though he brought Bikkurim.”

The Rambam (Shemitah V’Yovel 13:13) writes “It is not the tribe of Levi alone [that is dedicated to Hashem’s service], but every person who dedicates himself to the service of Hashem is sanctified, and Hashem will be his everlasting inheritance and assure that he is provided for in this world, just as He has provided for the Kohanim andLevites.”

Consequently, the Torah scholars are the Kohanim of “bayamim haheim” — “in those days” — even when there is no Beit Hamikdash. Supporting them is equivalent to theBikkurim given to the Kohanim and tithes given to the Levites, and one may confidently demand that Hashem bestow His blessing in return.

(מיוסד על מה שמצאתי בכתבי אבי הרב שמואל פסח ז"ל באגאמילסקי)

"וענית ואמרת...ארמי אובד אבי וירד מצרימה ויגר שם במתי מעט ויהי שם...ויוציאנו ה' ממצרים ביד חזקה...ויבאנו אל המקום הזה"
“Then you shall call out and say...‘An Aramean tried to destroy my forefather.’ He ascended to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became...G‑d took us out of Egypt with a strong hand...He brought us to this place.” (26:5-9)

QUESTION: According to Rashi the person bringing Bikkurim mentions this “to recall the kindness of the Omnipresent.” Why does he mention only these two things (Yaakov’s encounter with Lavan, and the Jews’ stay in Egypt), and not other miracles that Hashem performed for the Jewish people, such as, the rescuing of Yaakov from Eisav, the crossing of the Red Sea, the victory over Amalek, supplying the Jewish people with manna and water during the forty year sojourn in the wilderness, etc.?

ANSWER: The obligation to bring Bikkurim commenced only after the Jews came to Eretz Yisrael, conquered it, and divided it up (see Rashi). This implies that the purpose of bringing Bikkurim is not just to express our gratitude for receiving Eretz Yisrael but also for the capability of dwelling there permanently in tranquility and enjoying its fruit in peace. Thus, to emphasize Hashem’s great act of kindness, we mention, in contrast, other places where we dwelled permanently for a considerable amount of time.

In those places such as Aram, where Yaakov and his family dwelled for twenty years, and Egypt, where the entire Jewish people dwelled for two hundred and ten years, not only did we not enjoy peace and tranquility, but the native population wanted to destroy us. Fortunately, Hashem with His great kindness saved us from their hands. Unlike these two, all other miracles and acts of kindness were not connected with permanent residency in a particular place, and are thus not mentioned now, because it would not demonstrate the contrast to our living permanently inEretz Yisrael in peace and tranquility.

* * *

Rashi’s explanation that the statement “An Aramean tried to destroy my forefather” refers to Lavan’s pursuit of Yaakov does not contradict the above, but emphasizes that he pursued him for running away from his home in Aram where he wanted him to be at his ruthless disposal for more years. Moreover, since Lavan contemplated his chase after Yaakov while Yaakov was in Aram, Laven is charged as though he had carried it out in Aram, because regarding the nations of the world, Hashem considers their thoughts to be equivalent to deeds (see Jerusalem Talmud Pei’ah 1:1).

(לקוטי שיחות חי"ד)

"ויכרתו משם זמורה ואשכול ענבים...ומן הרמנים ומן התאנים"
“And they cut from there a vine with one cluster of grapes...and of the pomegranates and of the figs.” (Bamidbar 13:23)

QUESTION: The spies used the fruits of Israel to disgrace the land. How is this iniquity corrected?

ANSWER: According to the Arizal one purpose of the mitzvah of Bikkurim — bringing to the Beit Hamikdash the first-fruits of the seven species, by which Eretz Yisrael is praised — is to rectify the sin of the spies. The spies despised Eretz Yisrael and spoke against its fruit while the Jewish people, by bringing Bikkurim, demonstrate their love for the land and its fruit.

* * *

The Mishnah (Bikkurim 3:1) says: “How does a person set aside Bikkurim? He enters into his field and notices a newly-ripened fig, a newly ripened grape cluster, and a newly ripened pomegranate. He ties a blade of grass around each one and declares, ‘This is for Bikkurim.’ ”

Though the mitzvah of Bikkurim applies to all the seven fruits with which Eretz Yisrael is praised (Devarim 26:2, Rashi), the Mishnah mentions only these three to signify the particular connection between them and the spies: that by bringing them as Bikkurim one rectifies the spies’ crime against them.

(ר' מנחם זמבא הי"ד)

When one who brought Bikkurim concluded his recitation, a Heavenly voice proclaimed, “You have brought Bikkurim today; may you merit to do so again next year” (Devarim 26:16, Rashi). Thus, the mitzvah of Bikkurim is a means to receive a Heavenly blessing for longevity.

The spies, through their evil tongues, shortened the lives of the people in the wilderness (Bamidbar 14:29). Consequently, it is most fitting that the mitzvah of Bikkurim, which rectifies their iniquity, should earn longevity for those who observe it.

(פרדס יוסף החדש)

א"ל רבא לרבה בר מרי מנא הא מילתא דאמרי אינשי בתר עניא אזלא עניותא, א"ל דתנן עשירים מביאין ביכורים בקלתות של זהב וכסף ועניים בסלי נצרים של ערבה קלופה הסלים והביכורים נותנים לכהנים
Rava said to Rabbah bar Mari, from where can we derive a source to what people say “Poverty follows after the poor”? He replied “From a Mishnah (Bikkurim 3:8) ‘The wealthy bring their Bikkurim in baskets of silver and gold, while the poor bring them in baskets of peeled willow twigs. The poor leave the baskets to the Kohanim, but the wealthy would keep their baskets.’ ” (Bava Kamma 92a) Thus, the poor would get poorer by having their baskets taken while the wealthy would suffer no loss. (Rashi)

QUESTION: Why is it necessary to find a source for this adage? It’s a common fact of life that “the poor man pays double.” Since the poor can only afford to purchase items of inferior quality which quickly break and need repair or replacement, they end up spending more, in the long run, than the rich who spend more at the outset but its long lasting?

ANSWER: The Hebrew word for poor is “ani” (עני). In the alef-beit these three letters are followed by the letters פ-ס-כ, which can be arranged to spell the word kesef — money (כסף). This is an indication that poverty is not perpetual but it is followed up with prosperity.

The adage Rava asked about can be interpreted to mean, from where do we know that batar aniyutaafter poverty — azala aniyta — the poverty leaves — and is replaced by affluence.

Rabbah told him it can be derived from the mitzvah of bringing Bikkurim to the Kohen. Both the rich and the poor brought it in a basket. The rich brought it in a silver or gold basket and the poor used a inexpensive basket made of willow. The Kohen would keep the poor man’s basket and return the rich man’s.

Now, the obvious question is shouldn’t it have been the reverse? The answer is, by keeping the poor man’s basket the Kohen in a sense, is giving the poor man a blessing. He is saying to him, “In merit of your efforts to perform the mitzvah to the best of your ability, Hashem will bless you with riches, and you will no longer need this willow basket. In the future you will bring your Bikkurim in a basket of silver or gold.”

(עי' פתח עינים להחיד"א על מסכת ב"ק ועי' לקו"ש חכ"ט ע' 145)