Judaism: Active and Sensitive by Rabbi Hershel Solnica z’tl

(2003/5763)

Parshat Ki Tavo begins with a detailed description of the Mitzvah of Bikurim.  The Mishnayot tell us how a farmer would tie a ribbon on the first sprouting crops.  When the crops were ready, he would bring a small amount to the Kohen and make a special presentation and pronouncement.  This ritual concludes with the sentence, “You shall be glad with all the goodness that Hashem has given you…”  (26:11).

Such a beautiful and joyous ritual for a simple, non-expensive presentation!  When one has to give Ma’aser, one-tenth of one’s crop, by contrast, there is no such ritual, just pay-up!

A reason for this difference might reflect the very essence of Torah.  The Torah wants us to participate in every Mitzvah.  Torah commandments are not spectator events.  Ma’aser is just paying a debt to a Levi or poor person.  Bikurim is the act of appreciation of all that one owns.  My father, zt”l, would always lamentthe fact that so many Jews die of heart-attacks.  His un-medical view 40 years ago was that when Jews substitute a good heart instead of being a Jew, there is an excessive load place on the heart.  “Do you keep Shabbat?”  “No, but I have a good Jewish heart.”  “Do you keep Kashrut?  Put on Tefillin?”  “No, but I wear a Star-of-David pin.”  This is an excessive amount of non-participatory Judaism.  Judaism requires an act of Bikurim, love, and a sensitive mind to realize that all that we have, all that we are, and everything that we can hope for is only granted by the grace of Hashem.

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