Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 15   No. 51

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Parshas Ki Savo

The Mitzvah of Bikurim
(Part 1)

(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Based on the Mishnah in Bikurim, this is how Rabeinu Bachye describes the entire Bikurim ceremony.

"And you shall take from the first-fruit of your land": Assuming a person goes down to his field and sees a fig or a cluster of grapes that has ripened, he ties round it a thread and declares 'This is Bikurim!' Once he does that, the fruit adopts the sanctity of Bikurim, even though it is not completely ripe. Consequently, when it does fully ripen and he picks it from the tree, it is not necessary to repeat the declaration. The Mitzvah pertains specifically to prime quality fruit, and it is for this reason that one does not bring dates that grew in the mountains, fruit that grew in the valley or oil (only olives). This ruling Chazal derive from the word "from the first (me'Reishis)", implying the best fruit (as in Amos 6:6).

Indeed, every object of a Mitzvah and everything that one sanctifies and offers to G-d, should be of good quality, like we find by Hevel the Tzadik, who brought "from the firstborn of his sheep and from the choicest".


"You shall bring to the House of Hashem… ": Having designated one's Bikurim, one becomes responsible for them; should they become stolen or lost, he is obligated to replace them. Chazal also learn from the word "you shall bring (tovi)" that one is obligated to take the fruit to the Beis-Hamikdash oneself (and not through a shali'ach), unless that is, one specifically stipulated when picking them that he intended to do so … Those who live close to Yerushalayim bring fresh figs and grapes, whereas those who will need to spend longer on the journey bring dried figs and raisins … The earliest time for Bikurim is Shavu'os (in connection with which the Torah writes [in Mishpatim] "And the festival of harvest, the first-fruit of your labour"). And it is in this connection that the Torah will shortly write "and you shall rejoice with all the good" (for the season of rejoicing is between Shavu'os and Succos, when everyone is gathering their crops and their fruit-harvest). And that explains why someone who brings his Bikurim after Succos, does so, but without reading the Parshah.


" … you shall bring from your land": as long as there is still fruit in your fields for the animals to eat. The Sifri learns from here that the final time to bring Bikurim is on Chanukah, after which there is generally nothing left in the fields for the animals to eat. Any fruit that ripens from then on is considered the next year's fruit, whose time falls due only on the following Shavu'os.


" … and you shall place them in a basket". Bikurim, Rabeinu Bachye explains, brings esteem to the Kohen, Kavod to Hashem and is beneficial for the owner. It brings esteem to the Kohen, in that the owner goes to the tremendous trouble of transporting it all the way to Yerushalayim in order to feed him from his first-fruits and from the choicest of his crops; a Kavod for Hashem, that one prays before Him in the Beis-Hamikdash, asking Him to bestow upon him some of His blessings, and to thank Him for His kindness. And it is of great benefit to the owner, inasmuch as on the merit of this important Mitzvah he will enjoy a bumper harvest of fruit, and it is on his merit that the sustenance of the entire world increases. And that is why the Torah requires bringing Bikurim in a basket (the author is not clear on this point, but presumably, that is what he means).

In fact, says Rabeinu Bachye, a receptacle is one of the seven features that Bikurim require (see end of page 3). Ideally, one should bring each of the seven fruits in a separate basket, Failing that however, one places the barley first, then the wheat, dates, pomegranates, figs on top, with a layer of twigs or leaves separating the different species from one another, and with clusters of grapes hanging outside the basket. I don't know why the author omits olives.

"and you shall rejoice with all the good … ", and as Chazal have taught, there is no rejoicing without meat. Consequently, they would bring with them pigeons and young doves, some of which they would hang on the sides of their baskets, others they would hold in their hands; the former they brought as Olos, the latter, they would distribute to the Kohanim of the group that served that week, who would share them out among themselves and bring as Shelamim.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted mainly from the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)

Cursed for Serving Idols?

"Cursed be the man who manufactures a graven or molten image … " (27:15).

It is not feasible, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., citing the Gemara in Sotah 37b, that an idolater will get away with a mere curse!

Consequently, the Gemara explains, the Pasuk must be speaking about someone who fathered a child from an illicit relationship, from which a baby is born. If out of shame, the mother sends the child away from home, and he subsequently lands among gentiles and serves idols like them, his father and mother are cursed for having caused this to happen.


The Eleven Curses

"Cursed be the man … " (ibid.)

What all these have in common, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. is the fact that they are all sins that are performed in secret, and which people tend to transgress without anybody else knowing.


A Curse for not Rebuking

"Cursed be the one who does not uphold the words of this Torah … " (27:26).

The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. cites the Medrash, which writes that even somebody who 'learned and taught, performed and did, if he has the ability to rebuke, but does not, he will be cursed.

Someone on the other hand, who is in jail and who is not therefore able to learn and teach, perform and do, but who is somehow able to rebuke and does - is included in "Blessed be the one who upholds the words of this Torah".


Blessed in the City, Blessed in the Field

"Blessed will you be in the city, blessed will you be in the field" (28:3).

This has to do with the Mitzvos, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. 'Blessed will you be regarding the Mitzvos that you perform in the city, such as Succah, Mezuzah and Ma'akeh (a parapet around the roof), and blessed will you be regarding the Mitzvos that you perform in the field, such as Leket, Shikchah and Pei'ah.

Whereas according to the Yerushalmi, "the city" refers to Yerushalayim, and "the field" to Tziyon.


Worthless Captives

"And they will try to sell you to your enemies (the Egyptians) as slaves, but no Egyptian will want to buy you" (25:68).

… even if you came free of charge they wouldn't want you, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., because they will recall what happened to their forefathers, when they enslaved your ancestors.

When the captors see that their captives are worth nothing in the eyes of their potential purchasers, they will begin to beat them mercilessly, and to starve them.


Nothing New Under the Sun

"Your clothes did not wear out from on you … " (29:4).

This is not in the least surprising, as it already exists in the world of nature, says the Rosh. Go and see how the house of the snail grows on its back!

* * *


'Blessed be your baskets of first-fruit and the Chalah of the first of your doughs' (28:5).


'Blessed will you be when you enter your Batei-Medrash, and blessed will you be when you go out on your business ventures' (28:6).


'And all the nations of the world will see that the Name of G-d is engraved on you, when the Tefilin are on you, and they will be afraid of you' (28:10).


'Four keys remain in the Hands of the Master of the World, that He did not hand over to a Shali'ach; that of birth, of death, of sustenance and of rain … ' (28:12).


'And the word of G-d will appoint you as kings, and not as subjects; you will be elevated and not despised, provided you accept the Mitzvos … ' (28:13).


'When Moshe the Navi began these words (of rebuke), the earth shook, the Heaven trembled, the sun and the moon became dark, the Fathers of the world began to shout from their graves, all creatures fell silent and the trees stopped moving their branches. The Fathers of the world raised their voices and said 'Shame on our sons when they sin and these curses come upon them; How can they possibly bear them? Perhaps they will totally destroy them, since there will be no merits to protect them, and nobody to arise and pray on their behalf'. However a Bas-Kol fell from the sky and announced: 'Don't worry, Fathers of the world; Because even if the merits of all the generations terminate, your merits will never terminate, and the covenant that I made with you will never be negated, and will shield over them' … ' (28:15).


'Cursed you will be when you enter your theaters and circuses to negate the words of Torah, and cursed will you be when you go to your businesses' (28:19).


'And the Word of Hashem will incite against you a curse that will cause you to lose your money, confusion that will disturb your peace and a storm in whatever you undertake to do … ' (28:20).

* * *

The Seven Special Features of Bikurim
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Bikurim require seven special features: Location, Receptacle, Reading the Parshah, Korban, Song, Waving & Staying Overnight.


Location (Beis-Hamikdash) … as the Torah writes "and you shall go to the place which G-d will choose".

Receptacle … "and you shall place it in a basket".

Reading the Parshah (from "Arami oveid avi" until "asher nosato li Hashem"), as the Torah writes "and you shall raise your voice and say … ". "Ve'Oniso" also implies that the Parshah must be read in Lashon ha'Kodesh.

Korban … whoever brings Bikurim brings with it a Shelamim.

Song … since the Torah writes "and you shall rejoice in all the good", and "good" refers to song. Consequently, the moment the group bringing Bikurim enters the Azarah, the Levi'im begin to sing ("Aromimcho Hashem ki dilisoni … )".

Waving … which Chazal learn from the word "ve'hinachto (and you shall place it)" and from the words "And the Kohen shall take the basket from your hands". From the combined Pesukim they derive that the Kohen places his hand underneath that of the owner and together they wave it in all directions.

Staying Overnight … for so the Torah writes "and you shall turn round in the morning and go to your tent". Indeed, Chazal learn from here that anybody who visits the Beis-Hamikdash must stay overnight before returning home.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 480:
Not To Refrain from Issuing a Loan Before the Sh'mitah

One is forbidden to refrain from lending money to those who need it, for fear that the Sh'mitah will negate the debt. It is in this connection that the Pasuk writes in Re'ei (15:9) "Beware lest there will be a lawless thought in your heart saying 'The seventh year is approaching, the year of the Sh'mitah … ' ". And the Sifri comments on this ' "Hishamer" is a Lo Sa'aseh, and "Lest there will be" is also a Lo Sa'aseh'. The Torah presents two La'avin here, one after the other, to reinforce the issue.

A reason for the Mitzvah … is to strengthen and to fix in our minds the Midah of generosity, and to distance ourselves as far as is humanly possible from that of miserliness. There is nobody more generous than someone who lends his money knowing that the time when the debt will be released is imminent, and that he stands to lose his money, should an accident occur or anything which prevents him from claiming his debt before (the termination of) the Sh'mitah year. Whoever is conversant with the ways of the Torah, even just a little, knows with conviction that anyone who makes his money available for those who need it will benefit financially, whilst one who saves at the expense of the poor stands to lose (see Mishlei 11:24). This is because G-d judges man according to his deeds, providing him from His source of blessing to the extent that he comes close to it. In fact, the Midah of miserliness serves as a barrier between oneself and B'rachah; whereas generosity is in itself, a branch of B'rachah, so that a person who practices it, is part of it. Let the wise man hear and add to his wisdom.

The Dinim of the Mitzvah which are few, are basically inherent in the Pasuk itself.

This Mitzvah applies to both men and women everywhere and at all times, since, even nowadays when Sh'mitas Kesafim no longer applies min ha'Torah (only mi'de'Rabbanan) we nevertheless tend to be careful not to refrain from lending to those who need financial assistance due to fear of the forthcoming Sh'mitah, which will release the debt mi'de'Rabbanan nowadays, and min ha'Torah, in the time of the Beis-Hamikdash. Someone who contravenes it and declines to lend a person in need for fear of Hashmatas Kesafim has transgressed a La'av (even two as we explained earlier). He is not however, subject to Malkos, since his transgression does not involve an action. The Chinuch asks why the Torah needs to insert this La'av at all? Why would anyone refrain from issuing loans for the above reason when all he needs to do is to stipulate 'on condition that you won't allow the debt to be cancelled in the Sh'mitah' (in the way that we do in our documents)? And he answers that such is the way of the Torah to issue warnings, despite the possibility of circumventing the Isur with Takanos and conditions.

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