Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thursdays Parsha Tidbits - Ki Savo

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand in his shiur last year (due to technical difficulties our site was unable to play this week's shiur tonight). I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistencies are the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

The beginning of Parshas Ki Savo contains a discussion of the laws of bikurim (first fruits). As laid out in Devarim 26:1-12, the parsha discusses the mechanism for bringing the fruits up to Jerusalem, the passing of the basket to the kohain and the declaration (mikra bikurim) that is said by the farmer. Of note, the mikra bikurim is not merely a recital that the fruits have been brought. Instead, the individual recites a historical statement whereby he discusses that an Aramean (Lavan) sought to destroy our forefather (Jacob), so he went down to Egypt where he lived and multiplied, but the Egyptians mistreated us, so we cried out to Hashem the G-d of our fathers and He saved us and took us out of Egypt with great strength and miracles and He brought us to the land of Israel, a land overflowing with milk and honey.

The placement of the laws of bikurim and the language of the mikra bikurim is difficult to understand. Why do the laws of bikurim come in the beginning of Ki Savo, immediately after the story of how Amalek came and tried to destroy the Jews? Also, why does the mikra bikurim have a historical recital which dates back to Jacob?

In answering the question, R' Frand made reference to a passage from Bereishis Rabbah. It is a well known vort on the first pasuk in the Torah (Bereishis Bara Elokim) that because of what came first - the Torah which preceded creation, Hashem created the world. Bereishis Rabbah 1:6 puts a different spin on the pasuk, stating that in the z'chus of the bikurim which are called first, the world was created.

The Alshich explains that one of the bedrock fundamentals of serving Hashem is to recognize that He is responsible for the good things that happen. Hashem gives us wonderful things such as life, family, success in business. By thanking Him for what we receive, we recognize that He is responsible for our good fortune. However, one who is haughty and arrogant believes that he is responsible for his own results and does not recognize or thank Hashem for what he has in life.

With this introduction, we can understand the mikra bikurim and why it follows the parsha of Amalek. The mikra bikurim is not merely a historical recital (much as the telling over of the story of the exodus from Egypt at the seder table is more than merely a history lesson). Rather, the mikra bikurim is a public acknowledgement that we came from little and were saved by Hashem numerous times before being delivered to the wonderful land of Israel where we grew the fruit that is being offered as bikurim.

This also explains why the parsha of bikurim follows the story of Amalek. Amalek was the first nation to challenge the Jews after Hashem took them out of Egypt, but others followed thereafter. By saying the mikra bikurim, we recognize that Hashem saved us from Amalek and in so doing raise our stature in his eyes.

R' Frand finished the vort by bringing the Ramban who asks, what is the minimum shiur (amount) for bikurim? He answers that even one fig is enough. By doing the entire bikurm process of bringing the one fig up to Jerusalem and making the mikra bikirum on the one fruit, we demonstrate that we truly appreciate all that He does for us.

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