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

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Vol. 16   No. 46

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Parshas Ki Savo

(Part 2)

Bringing the Bikurim to Yerushalayim
(Adapted from R. Bachye, quoting the Rambam)

This is how R. Bachye, citing the Rambam, describes the ceremony of bringing the Bikurim to Yerushalayim:

All the men from the cities of that particular Ma'amad (the group that represent K'lal Yisrael by the Korban Tamid for that week) gather in the city of the leader of the Ma'amad together with the locals who are bringing their Bikurim. This is so that it should be a large group going up to Yerushalayim, and not just a few individuals - as the Pasuk in Mishlei (14:28) writes "The glory of the king is with many people". The night before embarking on the journey to Yerushalayim, they sleep in the streets. This is to avoid entering a house which might contain a dead person and render all occupants Tamei for seven days on account of Ohel ha'Meis.

Early the next morning, the officer in charge of the group announces 'Arise, Let us go up to Tziyon, to the House of our G-d!'

The oxen that are intended as peace-offerings walk before the owners carrying their baskets of Bikurim, their horns overlaid with gold, their heads bedecked with garlands of olive-twigs, as a reminder that the Mitzvah of Bikurim is confined to the seven species. And the flute plays before them, until they arrive close to Yerushalayim, Along the entire route, they declare "I am happy when they say to me 'Let us go to the House of G-d!" (Tehilim 122:1).

They travel only during two-thirds of the daylight period. When they approach Yerushalayim, they send messengers ahead, to inform the residents of the city of their imminent arrival. Meanwhile, they prepare their Bikurim baskets and adorn them (in keeping with the Mitzvah of "Zeh Keili ve'Anveihu"). Those whose baskets contain both fresh fruit and dried fruit now place the fresh fruit on top.


At that point, the various officers and officials exit the city walls and come out to welcome them. The size of the delegation depends entirely upon the size of the group that is arriving. Then, as they enter the gates of Yerushalayim, they announce "Our feet stood at the gates of Yerushalayim" (Ibid. 2).

As the group passes through the streets of Yerushalayim, all the craftsmen stand-up before them and (in honour of the great Mitzvah that is being performed) greet them with the words 'Our brothers, the men of such-and-such a place, come in peace!'


And so the group progresses through the streets of Yerushalayim, flutes playing, until they reach the Har ha'Bayis (the outermost section of the Beis-Hamikdash). At that point, each participant takes his basket and lifts it on to his shoulder. As they proceed to the Azarah, they recite (Kapitel 150) "Halelu-Kah, halelu Keil be'kodshso " until Kol ha'Neshomoh tehalel Koh Halelu-Kah".

When they reach the Azarah, the Levi'im begin to sing "Aromimcho Hashem ki Dilisoni " (Kapitel 30), whilst each owner recites the Parshah "I declare today to Hashem your G-d that I came to the land " and "Arami Oveid ovi" up until "on the land that you gave to me Hashem" (26, 5-10), with the basket still on his shoulder. Following that, the owner lowers the basket from his shoulder and holds it by its upper edge; the Kohen holds it by its lower edge, and together they wave it in all six directions.

All the Bikurim are then given to the Kohanim belonging to the Mishmar that is serving that week in the Beis-Hamikdash. They distribute it among themselves that evening like they do all Kodshei Hamikdash. Bikurim has no time limit and can be eaten anywhere in Yerushalayim.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

The Kohen, the Levi and the Ger

"You and the Levi and the Ger who is in your midst" (26:11).

R. Bachye explains that in writing "you and the Levi", the Torah is comparing the Levi (incorporating the Kohen) to the Yisrael, in that if he grows any of the seven species that are subject to Bikurim in his forty-eight cities, he is obligated to fulfill the Mitzvah too - to bring Bikurim and to read the Parshah.

By the same token, the same ought to pertain to a Ger as well, since he too, is compared here to a Levi and a Yisrael. This supports the opinion that obligates a Ger to both bring Bikurim from a field that he purchased and to read the Parshah (see 'Some Halachos of Bikurim' 2. and footnote on this Pasuk).


Simchah shel Mitzvah

" I did all that You commanded me " (26:14).

'I was happy and I made others happy', Rashi explains. For so it says earlier (in Pasuk 11), R. Bachye adds, "and you shall rejoice with all the good".

Both by virtue of referring to happiness as "all that you commanded me" and by the fact that it is the last mentioned in the list of things that the owner did correctly, the Torah is highlighting the importance of Simchah that should accompany all Mitzvos in general and this Mitzvah in particular.

See following Pearl.


The Heaven Called 'Ma'on'

"Look down from your holy dwelling (mi'Me'on kodsh'cho), and bless Your people " 26:15.

"Look down ". '*We* did what *You* commanded us', Rashi explains; 'Now *you* carry out what You promised *us*!'

R. Bachye continues. "Bless Your people" with sons and daughters'.

"and the land that You gave to us" with rain of blessing and goodwill.

" a land flowing with milk and honey" Give a good taste to the fruit!

R. Bachye also comments on the fact that, whereas in Melachim (1, 8:39) Shlomoh Hamelech asks G-d to answer their prayers from the Heaven called "Machon", here it refers to the Heaven called "Ma'on". With reference to the Simchah which we discussed (in the previous Pearl), he reminds us that Ma'on is the Heaven in which Simchah is stored. Consequently, Ma'on is the Heaven that the Torah aptly mentions here. And the author concludes by citing Chazal, who say that the word "Hashkifah" throughout the Torah has negative connotations (of Midas ha'Din), except for this Pasuk which is written in connection with gifts to the poor, because giving to the poor has the power of transforming Din to Rachamim, punishment into blessing. Only in light of what he just explained, he stipulates that is only if one gives joyously.


The Writing on the Stones

"And you shall write on them all the words of this Torah, in order that you shall come to the land " (27:3). This implies, says R. Bachye, that they transcribed on the stones the entire Torah. Indeed, the Ramban maintains that they wrote - 'from "Bereishis" until "le'Einei Kol Yisrael"with all the Tagin (the crowns) and other special markings that a Seifer Torah requires. And what's more, he adds, it is from there that they subsequently copied the Tagin on to their own Sefarim.

This is not the opinion of the R. Sa'adya Ga'on however, who claims that what they wrote on the stones was the Taryag Mitzvos, much in the style of the S'mag (the Seifer Mitzvos Gedolos) - all the teachings of the Torah, but not of its contents.

The Pasuk continues "in order that you shall come to the land ". The Torah is giving a reason here, says the Ramban, for the setting up of the stones - in stressing that it is on the sole merit of the Torah that we have been given Eretz Yisrael. And it is for this very reason that the Chachamim instituted the mention of 'Torah' in the B'rachah of 'the Land', in Birchas ha'Mazon.

Alternatively, R. Bachye suggests, the Torah's obligation of putting up the stones is to give Yisrael the strength to conquer Eretz Yisrael, for it is the strength of the Torah that destroys our enemies and enables us to inherit the land. According to him, Torah (in this case) is the cause rather than the effect.


The Blessings Will Come to You

"And all these blessings will come upon you and they will overtake you" (28:2).

Generally, success in all its forms, needs to be worked for; they don't just come by themselves, certainly not wholesale. Yet here, says R. Bachye, the Torah states in no uncertain terms, that if we are loyal to its commands, then it is not us who will need to go out looking for blessings; it is the blessings that will come looking for us - and they will find us!


Social Order

"Blessed be the fruit of your womb; Blessed be (the fruit of) your baskets Cursed be (the fruit of) your baskets; Cursed be the fruit of your womb!"

The Torah begins with personal, physical blessing, and then goes on to the blessing of one's property, but switches the order when it comes to the curses. This teaches us that the punishment is first aimed at one's property, and it is only if one fails to do Teshuvah that the punishment will take on the form of corporal punishment - for so the Medrash says 'The Master of mercy never begins with physical punishment!'

* * *

Highlights from Targum Yonasan

' The word of G-d will strike you with swelling and fever, fire in the bones that burns the marrow and an overpowering thirst and they will pursue you on to your beds until you are destroyed' (28:21).

'And the Heaven above will be (dry) like copper - it will sweat but will not provide dew and rain, and the ground that is under your feet will be (dry) like iron - it will not sweat, and will therefore not moisten the trees, the spices, the sweet fruits and the vegetables' (28:23).

' .. Your corpses will be cast in the open as food for all the birds of the Heaven and the animals of the land and nobody will chase them away from your corpses' (28:26).

'And you will seek good advice to alleviate your troubles, but there will be nobody to show you the right way, just like a blind man gropes in the dark and nobody is able to direct him ' (28:29).

'Your sons and daughters will be handed over to a foreign nation but you have no good deeds, as a result of which, that when you raise your hands in prayer before G-d, your Father in Heaven, He will not redeem you (from your troubles)' 28:32.

'And the word of G-d will strike you on the knees, because they bent to perform sins, and on your calves, which then ran to perform them; and if you do not return to the Torah, you will not succeed in finding a cure, but you will be smitten from the soles of your feet till the tip of your skull' (28:35).

'G-d will send you and the king into exile, and you will pay taxes to those who worship gods of wood and stone' (28:36).

' should you then consider worshipping their idols, you will become desolate, a parable and the topic of conversation among the people where G-d will send you' (28:37).

* * *

Some Halachos of Bikurim
(adapted from Rabeinu Bachye quoting the Rambam)

1. Someone who does not own land but purchased one tree, brings Bikurim but does not read the Parshah, since he is unable to say "Behold I have brought the first-fruit of the land that You gave to me, Hashem" (If he owns three trees, he automatically owns the land in which they grow; whereas two is a Machklokes).

2. Likewise a Ger who owns land brings Bikurim but does not read the Parshah, since he is unable to say "like You swore to our fathers". There is an opinion however, who holds that he does, since the Torah refers to Avraham Avinu as the father of a multitude of nations" (incorporating converts).

3. Since the Torah compares Bikurim to Terumah (by calling it "Terumas yadecha"), a Zar (a non-Kohen) is prohibited from eating it, and is Chayav Misah bi'Yedei Shamayim if he does.

4. Unlike Terumah however, a Kohen who is an Onein (on the day that a close relative died) is forbidden to eat Bikurim. This is because the Torah writes in connection with it "And you shall rejoice with all the good " - and it goes without saying that an Onein is in no state to rejoice.

5. The wealthy owners bring their Bikurim in baskets of silver and gold, whereas the poor bring their's in wickerwork baskets of peeled willow. The latter's baskets are given to the Kohanim together with the fruit; those of the former are not.

6. Up to the time that the owner reaches the Har ha'Bayis, he is permitted to hand the Bikurim to his slave or to his relative to carry. Once he reaches the Har ha'Bayis however, he is obligated to take the basket and to place it on his shoulders (as we described above) - and this applies even to the King of Yisrael, who is normally not permitted to perform such mundane activities in the presence of his subjects.

7. Initially, whoever was able to recite the Parshah by heart would do so, and whoever was not, had it read to him (and he would repeat it). What happened was however, that people who did not know the Parshah by heart were embarrassed and stopped bringing their Bikurim. So the Chachamim initiated that a Shali'ach would read the Parshah on behalf of each owner, much in the same way as the Ba'al Korei Leins on behalf of the person who is called up, even if he knows how to Lein by himself.

* The following two comments are taken from the No'am ha'Mitzvos.

8. Some commentaries maintain that , after reading the Parshah, the owner places the basket containing the Bikurim on the floor of the Azarah, beside the Mizbei'ach (Hanachah). And it is from that moment on that the Kohanim are permitted to eat the Bikurim - even if the owner has for whatever reason not yet read the Parshah (since reading the Parshah is not crucial to the Mitzvah).

* 9. The underlying reason for the Mitzvah of Bikurim, the No'am ha'Mitzvos explains, is based on the fact that Hashem Yisbarach is the Master of all creations. As such it is befitting to acknowledge the fact by presenting Him whatever falls under the category of 'first'. This incorporates the firstborn of man and of animals, the first of the crops (corn, wine and oil [Terumah]), the first of the seven species (Bikurim) and the first of the dough (Chalah).

* * *

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