In Parashat Ki Tavo, we learn about the Mitzvah of Bikkurim, the giving of the first fruits of one’s crop to the Kohanim in the Beit HaMikdash (Devarim 26:5-10). If one takes a close look at what is done during the giving of Bikkurim, the ceremony seems strange. We might expect the person to give additional gifts to the Kohanim or recite the second paragraph of Shema which deals with our eventual arrival into Eretz Yisrael and the importance of serving Hashem during prosperous times. Instead, however, the Torah commands us to recite a short summary of Jewish history, the crux of which discusses Yetzi’at Mitzrayim. What is the connection between Yetzi’at Mitzrayim and the bringing of the Bikkurim?
Although the Jewish people may have preserved some aspects of their identity in Mitzrayim, they did not completely deserve to be redeemed based on their merit alone. Rather, it was Hashem’s previous promise to Bnei Yisrael’s forefathers that justified their redemption (Devarim 9:5). Additionally, it was an act of kindness from Hashem to Bnei Yisrael in Mitzrayim because they did not truly deserve it. Our relationship with Hashem as a nation began with an act of undeserved kindness from Him, thus setting the tone for the rest of our relationship. We are not equals of Hashem, rather He gives us our necessities as gifts, and we must appreciate that aspect of Him. Our earthly production is not only our own, but a divine gift from Hashem as well.
In this way, we can understand why we recite this paragraph specifically when we give Bikkurim. At the time when we are harvesting our first fruits, it is easy to slip up and believe that we are capable of producing our own sustenance without the help of Hashem. The Torah already warns us against this by stating that people should not believe, “Kochi VeOtzem Yadi Asah Li Et HaChayil HaZeh,” “My strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth” (8:17). Therefore, before we partake in the fruits of our labor, we must first thank Hashem for them. This is why the Torah discusses Bikkurim right before it revisits the Berachot and Kelalot, the blessings and curses, that are about to be described to Bnei Yisrael. We must recognize that our sustenance is a kindness from Hashem and enables us to grow closer to Him.