The Torah portion Ki Savo opens with the commandment of Bikkurim, the offering of the first fruits that were brought in a basket called a “ten” and given to a kohen in the Beis HaMikdash. As described in the Mishnah,1 the basket was a simple one, made of peeled willow twigs. Both the basket and the first fruits were given to the kohen.

Emerging first, Bikkurim epitomizes the prime of the crop,2 which were to be brought specifically from the “seven varieties for which Eretz Yisrael is lauded.”3 Bikkurim were to be brought only to the Beis HaMikdash, and the mitzvah applied only in Eretz Yisrael.4

Notwithstanding this, the first fruits were brought in a small basket.

Why is it that the first and best fruits of Eretz Yisrael were limited by their container, and why was the basket of such simple quality?

In a spiritual sense, Bikkurim alludes to the Jewish people5 in general, and particularly to their souls as found with their source above6 — a level where spirituality precedes all else.7

Although the soul above is on such a high plane, it must descend and clothe itself within the “vessel” of a body which conceals and limits its bond with G‑d.

While this descent is indeed great, it serves a vital purpose: Through its descent, the soul is able to attain a level of spirituality that it could not attain otherwise.8 For this descent reveals the soul’s choicest aspect — how it is truly one, as it were, with G‑d Himself.9

Just as this is so regarding the soul’s descent, so too with regard to the Jews’ service in this world: The ultimate purpose of our spiritual service is achieved not so much through the attainment of love and fear of G‑d,10 as by the performance of practical good deeds.11

By performing mitzvos that involve even the lowest parts of the human organism, a person causes his entire body to become a fitting receptacle for the sanctity of his soul. This in turn elevates the soul to its loftiest state.

The reason for this is similar to the explanation as to why G‑d created different levels in the spiritual worlds and the physical one.

The Alter Rebbe explains12 that the purpose of the chain-like downward succession of worlds is not for the sake of the higher worlds. Rather, the purpose is this lowest world. By having this world transformed into a dwelling place for G‑d’s essence, a tremendous elevation is achieved in the higher spiritual worlds as well.13

The same is true with regard to the soul: It is specifically through its descent within the body that it is able to transform this world into a dwelling place for G‑d. Within the world itself, this is achieved by elevating even its lowest aspects through the performance of practical mitzvos.

By dint of this service, the soul attains a level of spirituality and closeness to G‑d that is even greater than it enjoyed prior to its descent— it achieves the level of spiritual Bikkurim by vesting itself in the simplest of vessels, the body.

The same is true with regard to the mitzvah of Bikkurim: The ultimate elevation of the first fruits is reflected in the fact that they are brought and given together with a simple basket of willow twigs.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXIX, pp. 150-152