Some Fruit by Rabbi Josh Kahn


Of Torah, Am Yisrael and Bikkurim, Bikkurim is clearly the outlier.  The common denominator, however, is that the Midrash at the beginning of Sefer Bereishit (parts of which are quoted in Rashi) states that the world was created for each of these items.  While the importance of Torah and Klal Yisrael doesn’t need to be elaborated on, the inclusion of Bikkurim, bringing the first fruit to the Beit HaMikdash, seems out of place.  What is the important message conveyed through the Mitzvah of Bikkurim which alone would have warranted the creation of the world?

Summarizing some of the details of Bikkurim sheds insight into the broader message imbedded in this Mitzvah.  A person would take the first fruits he grew, bring them up to the Beit HaMikdash, stand in front of a Kohen and recite a paragraph recorded in the Torah entitled “Arami Oveid Avi.”  This paragraph, well-known to us because it is the centerpiece of the Maggid section of the Seder on Pesach, is a brief summary of the fulfillment of the Brit Bein HaBetarim, beginning with Yaakov’s travel to the house of Lavan and culminating with this person standing in the Beit HaMikdash.  What is the significance of this recitation at this particular occasion?  Furthermore, the Meforshim (see Rashi, Ramban and Kli Yakar) discuss the ideal type of Kohen to whom one should bring the Bikkurim.  The Torah allows us to bring the Bikkurim to whichever Kohen happens to be doing the service in the Beit HaMikdash, but the Kli Yakar emphasizes that we might have a “Hava Amina,” an initial thought, that we should be required to bring the Bikkurim specifically to a Kohen who is a Talmid Chacham.  Why would there be an emphasis on bringing the Bikkurim to a Talmid Chacham specifically?

The process of bringing Bikkurim to Hashem may symbolize a broader sense of religious service.  By bringing his first fruits, the farmer recognizes that the blessings that have been bestowed upon him ultimately come from Hashem.  The first fruit he grows, upon which he rejoices, must be dedicated to Hashem.  This process should remind us of an obligation to recognize each blessing bestowed upon us as a gift from Hashem. 

Internalizing this crucial message may provide an insight into the details of Bikkurim previously mentioned.  A person brings each gift, physically or figuratively, that has been bestowed upon him, and recites Arami Oveid Avi.  He recalls where he comes from and the legacy that has been provided for him.  He stands in the Beit HaMikdash and reflects upon his forefathers.  But he also looks in front of him and ideally will see a Kohen who is a Talmid Chacham.  This Kohen represents the present leader in Bnei Yisrael, someone who has accomplished incredible feats in the study of Torah.  After reflecting on the past and present, he looks to the future and hopes to become a Talmid Chacham himself.  The way to accomplish this inspiring goal is to take those gifts which have been bestowed upon him and dedicate them to the service of Hashem. 

This fusion of past, present and future is the powerful message of the Bikkurim.  As the Mishnah states, “Know from where you came, where you are going and in front of whom you will ultimately give a full accounting” (Avot 3:1).  This challenge is the reason the world was created; to enable each and every one of us to fulfill his potential by elevating the mundane gifts he is given into the realm of Kedushah.  There is no object that was created for no reason.  The message of Bikkurim is to take everything we can and use it to properly serve Hashem. 

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