The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand in his shiur this evening. I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is 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 description of the bikkurim ceremony where a farmer brought his first fruits to the Beis Hamikdash and they were given to the Kohain with much fanfare. Within the Torah's discussion of the ceremony (Devarim 28:1-11) the Torah indicates that after giving the fruits to the Kohain, the farmer bows as it states V'hishtachavisa Lifnei Hashem Elokecha (Devarim 28:10).
The Midrash Tanchuma writes that Moshe saw with ruach Hakodesh that the Beis Hamikdash would one day be destroyed and that the Jews would no longer be able to bring bikkurim. Therefore Moshe established the concept of praying Shemoneh Esrei to compensate for this loss.
Rabbi Frand then asked, what is the connection between Shemoneh Esrei and bikkurim?
Rabbi Frand began his answer by making reference to the Minchas Asher (R' Asher Weiss) who discusses many situations in the Torah which involved bowing, including Ya'akov and his wives bowing to Esau (Bereishis 33:3,6). Why did they bow? Because bowing connotes respect - which we see in some cultures today. Rabbi Frand made reference to the bowing ceremony when one meets the Queen of England and Japanese ceremonial bowing.
The Minchas Asher also mentioned another form of bowing brought down in the Torah. When Eliezer learned that he would be able to bring Rivka back to Yitzchak, the Torah states that he bowed to Hashem (Bereishis 24:51). This was bowing as a sign of acknowledgement that Hashem had done something good for him.
In Shemoneh Esrei there are two periods of bowing - in the beginning in the Avos portion and towards the end in the Modim portion. These demonstrate the two forms of bowing - the first wherein the person demonstrates that he is subjugated to Hashem. The second bowing is an indication that he acknowledges the good that he has received from Hashem.
So which form of bowing is found in the bikkurim ceremony? Rabbi Frand answered that it is a machlokes. The Vilna Gaon in the sefer Aderes Eliyahu says that the bowing is showing subjugation, because when leaving the King, one must still bow his head and show that he is respectful of the King.
In contrast, the Tosafos in Gemara Sukkah says that the bowing comes while the Kohain is waving the basket with the fruit and that this is an acknowledgement of the goodness received from Hashem.
The Midrash Tanchuma's message is that Moshe saw that the bikkurim ceremony afforded the Jews the opportunity to perform both forms of bowing. Knowing that the Beis Hamikdash would be destroyed, Moshe set up the Shemoneh Esrei so as to allow us to continue to practice both forms of bowing.
If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!