You should [hold the basket and] say out loud before G‑d, your G‑d: "[Lavan the] Aramean [wanted to] destroy my father [Ya'akov. And his sorrows did not stop there, because] he went down to Egypt and lived there in a small [family] group [of seventy souls]. But he became a great, powerful, and populous nation there.

-- Devarim 26:5

Classic Questions

What is the connection between Ya'akov's difficulties with Lavan and the bringing of first-fruits? (v. 5)

Rashi: One mentions the kindness of the Omnipresent [by stating]: "[Lavan the] Aramean [wanted to] destroy my father."

Torah Temimah: One brings first-fruits to thank G‑d for His kindness in giving the Land of Israel to the Jewish people. Normally, a nation can only acquire a land when they themselves are settled, and in a position of strength. The Jewish people, however, were lacking any strength at all, spending all their time wandering from place to place, and yet thanks to G‑d's kindness, they managed to take possession of the Land of Israel miraculously. For this reason, when a person brings first-fruits to the Temple, he describes how from the moment Ya'akov left his father's house, Ya'akov was unsettled and in a position of strategic weakness which continued through­out the Egyptian exile. And nevertheless, G‑d's kindness ensured that the Jewish people came to possess the land, despite all odds.

The Rebbe's Teachings

The Declaration Upon Bringing First-fruits (v. 5-10)

In addition to the mitzvah of bringing first-fruits to the Temple, there is a further mitzvah to make a verbal declaration (v. 5-10) in which "one mentions the kindness of the Omnipresent," as Rashi writes.

However, one detail which Rashi does not explain is why this declaration only mentions two events in the history of the Jewish people: Lavan's attempt to destroy Ya'akov, and the Egyptian exile.

Why, for example, does the declaration omit major occurrences such as the salvation of Ya'akov from Eisav, the splitting of the Reed Sea, the miracles of the war with Amalek, the manna, and the supply of water in the desert, etc.?

Torah Temimah explains that the two events mentioned in the declaration bring to light how the Jewish people managed to acquire a homeland despite the fact that they were strategically weak, being a people wandering from place to place.

However, this only magnifies the question of why the declaration fails to mention Ya'akov's fleeing from Eisav, which was the initial cause of Ya'akov's wandering. Also, it would have been appropriate to mention how the Jewish people were wandering in the desert for forty years.

Since this is a matter which is difficult to understand at the literal level, Rashi should surely have addressed this matter. We can only assume that Rashi felt that the reader could understand the matter for himself with simple logic, from one of Rashi's earlier comments.

The Explanation

The declaration made on bringing first-fruits to the Holy Temple, thanking G‑d for His kindness, must clearly be connected with the first-fruits themselves. I.e., we mention only acts of kindness of G‑d which resemble the kindness that led to the bringing of firstfruits.

The Jewish people were only obligated to bring first-fruits after the Land of Israel had been divided among the Tribes (see Rashi on v. 1, above). Consequently, this mitzvah is not a thanksgiving merely for acquiring the actual land, but for its complete settlement, since only at that point could one truly "rejoice with all the good" (v. 11).

Consequently, the salvation of Ya'akov from Eisav and the splitting of the Reed Sea are not directly relevant here, since these events occurred while on a journey, and not at a time of settlement. Similarly, the miracles that occurred to our ancestors in the desert, such as the war with Amalek and the manna, were not associated with a fixed place.

Thus, the only events mentioned in the declaration are times when G‑d helped the Jewish people while they were settled:

  1. The salvation of Ya'akov from Lavan, since Ya'akov lived with Lavan for twenty years.

  2. The period in Egypt, which lasted 210 years, since these were both times when our ancestors benefited from acts of G‑d's kindness during long-term settlements. And this resembles G‑d's kindness in helping a person to be settled in his homeland, and bring first-fruits.

(Based on Likutei Sichos vol. 14, p. 93ff.)