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The Mitzva of Bikkurim

By: SFW Students & Alumna
Alexis Levy (SFW '08, '09)

Parshat Ki Tavo


One of the last mitzvot in the Torah is found in this week’s parsha, that of bikkurim. However, the mitzva of bikkurim appears earlier in the Torah. If this is the case, then why does the Sefer Hachinuch list two separate mitzvot? Surely, it is all one mitzvah!


The difference between the mitzva in our parsha and Shmot 23:19, where the mitzva of bikkurim first appears, is that in Shmot we are commanded to bring bikkurim whereas in Ki Tavo the mitzva is MIKRA bikkurim; not bringing bikkurim but declaring them.


Why is there a declaration involved specifically with the mitzva of bikkurim?


The mitzva of bikkurim is a mitzva that expresses gratitude to Hashem. However, this mitzva differs in a number of ways from other mitzvot which thank Hashem: The mitzva of bikkurim only applies to the shivat haminim, there is the concept of the declaration, bikkurim are only brought when the Beit Hamikdash is standing and only brought by someone who actually owns land in the Land of Israel. If someone owns a tree but not the land then they do not bring bikkurim. How are these four elements of the mitzva connected?


In the parsha of bikkurim, the root ‘natan’, ‘to give’, appears six times in the context of Hashem giving us something. We cannot give to Hashem so ‘natan’ only goes in one way, from Hashem to us. The root ‘to come’ or the causative, ‘to bring’, also appears six times. This, however, can work in both directions. Hashem brought us to our place, the Land of Israel and we bring the bikkurim to His place, the Beit Hamikdash. This is why we only bring bikkurim when the Beit Hamikdash is standing and also why we only bring from the shivat haminim. The shivat haminim are the seven species for which the land of Israel is praised, and so, in response to being given the land, it is only logical that we bring from these species.


When the person brings the bikkurim he says the following:

 I declare today to Hashem, your G-d, that I have come to the land that Hashem swore to our forefathers to give us…An Aramean would have destroyed my father, and he descended to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation – great, strong and numerous. The Egyptians mistreated us and afflicted us, and placed hard work upon us. Then we cried out to Hashem, the G-d of our forefathers, and Hashem heard our voice and saw our affliction, our travail, and our oppression. Hashem took us out of Egypt with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm, with great awesomeness, and with signs and wonders. He brought us to this place, and He gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And now, behold! I have brought the first fruit of the ground that You have given me, Hashem.”


The person had to view himself as if he personally entered Israel which is why he must actually own land. 


So what is the connection with the declaration?


The Sefer Hachinuch writes that formulating the words with your mouth causes you to think about and feel the words you are saying. By making the declaration at the time of bringing the bikkurim, you not only show and feel gratitude to Hashem, but you also connect yourself with Am Yisrael in all generations, from the times of the avot to future generations with the common bond to Eretz Yisrael.      




Categorized under: 1: Parshat Shavua > Ki Tavo