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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tavo 5772

Parashat Hashavuah: First Fruit Next to the Altar

Harav Shaul Yisraeli based on Siach Shaul, pg. 528-530

There is a special mitzva with special conditions –  to bring bikkurim (the first fruit of the crop) to the Beit Hamikdash and make a declaration of thanks to Hashem for the fruit and the plot of land within the Land He gave us (see Devarim 26:2-4). If one does not have complete ownership of the land from which the fruit was nourished, the mitzva does not apply to its fruit.

The kohen is to take the fruit and place them next to the “altar of Hashem.” How different is Hashem’s altar from those used by idol worshippers. No metal is to be used in forming the altar, as this reminder of violence spoils it (Devarim 27:5). This is in contrast to the altars of others, which are built on the spilling of human blood. It is before such an altar of Hashem, pure from anything objectionable, that the fruit are to be placed. The fruit must also be free of sin, starting with the sin of thinking that one’s success is due to his own resourcefulness. It must be free of manipulations, trickery, and arguments with the neighbors about the cultivation of his produce. It must be pure of even a hint of theft. The declaration over the first fruit must also be pure from anything false or even seems false. If the land used to grow the produce is not totally his, one can not say that the land is his. There is no sanctity without purity.

The Torah instructs to bring the fruit “to the kohen who will be in those days” (ibid. 3). Rashi picks up on the stress of “those days,” saying that one is to make due with whoever the kohen is at that time. There is a similar derivation in regard to going for resolution of doubts on matters of Torah law to the kohen of the time. The latter derivation is more expected, as for Torah knowledge, one would think that we need an objective expert. However, why would one think that an available kohen would not be able to receive the first fruit? Based on what we have seen, the matter can be understood. A person needs a determination as to the completeness of his rights to the fruit and the land, and it is plausible that only an expert kohen could be trusted to decide for him. One might say that he would have accepted the verdict of the experts of yesteryear, but who are the people of his time to decide for him?

The Torah says that this is a wrong outlook. The main element needed to come to the right halachic decision is Divine Assistance (see Sanhedrin 93b), and the place one is located plays a role. When one brings his fruit to “the place that Hashem has chosen,” the kohen who is charged to function there is to be trusted. In general, Hashem grants the necessary wisdom to the Torah leaders that He elevated to their roles. Do not stray from their decisions. The Torah sets out a straight path. It is the nature of the individual to stray to a given side and claim that the Torah is to the left or to the right of its proper position (see Devarim 17:1). In truth, it is the individual’s responsibility to straighten himself to conform to the Torah.

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Dedication

This edition of
Hemdat Yamim

is dedicated
 to the memory of
R' Meir
 ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld

o.b.m

 

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