Friday, August 27, 2010

Bikkurim - thanking Hashem

The possuk says in this week’s sedrah:
וּבָאתָ אֶל הַכֹּהֵן אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם וְאָמַרְתָּ אֵלָיו הִגַּדְתִּי הַיּוֹם לַה' אֱלֹקֶיךָ כִּי בָאתִי אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע ה' לַאֲבֹתֵינוּ לָתֶת לָנוּ. וְלָקַח הַכֹּהֵן הַטֶּנֶא מִיָּדֶךָ וְהִנִּיחוֹ לִפְנֵי מִזְבַּח ה' אֱלֹקיךָ. וְעָנִיתָ וְאָמַרְתָּ לִפְנֵי ה' אֱלֹקיךָ אֲרַמִּי אֹבֵד אָבִי וַיֵּרֶד מִצְרַיְמָה... וְעַתָּה הִנֵּה הֵבֵאתִי אֶת רֵאשִׁית פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַתָּה לִּי ה'
“You will come to the cohen who will be in those days and you will say to him; ‘I have told today to Hashem your G-d that I have come to the land which Hashem swore to our fathers to give to us.’
And the cohen will take the basket from your hands and he will place it in front of the mizbeach of Hashem your G-d.
And you will answer and you will say before Hashem your G-d, ‘Lavan sought to destroy my father and he went down to Mitzraim…And now behold I have brought the first fruits of the land that you, Hashem, have given to me.’”

The Rambam explains that the mitzva to say mikra bikkurim and the mitzva to bring bikkurim are two separate mitzvos. However, when the Rambam describes the mitzva of mikra bikkurim in ספר המצות מצוה קל"ב , he does not mention the first passuk of “הִגַּדְתִּי הַיּוֹם לַה' אֱלֹקֶיךָ”. He only refers to the pessukim from arami oved avi::
מצוה קלב -  היא שצונו לספר טובותיו אשר היטיב לנו והצילנו. מתחיל בענין יעקב אבינו ומסיים בעבודת המצריים וענותם אותנו ולשבחו על כל זה ולבקש ממנו להתמיד הברכה כשיביא הבכורים, והוא אמרו יתעלה וענית ואמרת לפני ה' אלהיך ומה שבא אחר זה מהפרשה כלה, וזאת המצוה כלה נקראת מקרא בכורים

 “Mitzva 132 is that He commanded us to relate the goodness which he has done for us and how He saved us. He starts relating from Yaakov Avinu (arami oved avi) and he finishes with the escape from the servitude and affliction of Mitzraim. He praises Hashem for all this and he asks Him to continue giving berochoh when he brings the bikkurim. As Hashem said " וענית ואמרת לפני ה' אלהיך "” and the rest of the parsha. This entire mitzva is called mikra bikkurim.”

However in הלכות ביכורים פרק ג' הלכה י'  the Rambam does mention the first passuk:
מצות עשה להתודות במקדש על הבכורים בשעה שמביאם מתחיל וקורא הגדתי היום לה' אלקיך כי באתי אל הארץ וגו' ארמי אובד אבי עד שיגמור כל הפרשה עד אשר נתת לי ה'
“It is a mitzva to be misvadeh in the Mikdosh over the bikkurim when he brings them. He starts reading  הִגַּדְתִּי הַיּוֹם לַה' אֱלֹקֶיךָ"" and continues with arami oved avi until he completes the whole parshah.”

Here the Rambam refers to the passuk of הִגַּדְתִּי הַיּוֹם לַה' אֱלֹקֶיךָ. Another difference is that in the Sefer HaMitzvos, the Rambam calls the mitzva krias bikkurim whereas in Mishna Torah he calls the mitzva vidui bikkurim.

Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Goldberg explains as follows:
Initially when the grower comes to the beis hamikdash he says vidui – which is the passuk of הִגַּדְתִּי הַיּוֹם לַה' אֱלֹקֶיךָ. After he has said vidui and the cohen has done tenufah, he then expresses his thanks through the pessukim starting from arami oved avi. The main purpose of the mitzva is for the grower to express his thanks starting from arami oved avi, but before he can do this he has to say vidui bikkurim in the first passuk.

There are a number of difficulties in understanding these pessukim:
·         Why is הִגַּדְתִּי הַיּוֹם לַה' אֱלֹקֶיךָ  vidui?
·         What has the grower been misvadeh by saying כִּי בָאתִי אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע ה' לַאֲבֹתֵינוּ לָתֶת לָנוּ?
·         Why is vidui a prerequisite to thanking Hashem for everything that he has given us?
·         Why does the Rambam say that part of the mitzva of mikra bikkurim is “ולבקש ממנו להתמיד הברכה כשיביא הבכורים”? The passuk does not say that the grower makes any request after he has completed the mikra bikkurim?

Normally vidui is transalated as confession, which implies that the confessor has wronged the person to whom he is confessing. However the passuk says in איוב ל"ה ו' - ז':
אִם חָטָאתָ מַה תִּפְעָל בּוֹ.... אִם צָדַקְתָּ מַה תִּתֶּן לוֹ...
“If you did an aveira – what did you do to Hashem, if you did a mitzva, what did you give to Him?”
A person makes no impact on Hashem through his mitzvos and aveiros, therefore it is impossible to say that vidui means confession in the sense of having wronged Hashem, kaveyachol. A better transalation of vidui is acknowledgement. When a person acknowledges to Hashem that he did an aveirah this  heals the rift that had been created, which is why vidui is a part of teshuvah.

When a person does vidui bikkurim, he is acknowledging that he has come into Eretz Yisroel, which is a land in which he has a special relationship with Hashem. As the passuk says:
ארץ אשר ה' אלוקיך דרש אתה תמיד עיני ה' אלוקיך בה מרשית השנה ועד אחרית שנה
“[Eretz Yisroel is] a land which Hashem your G-d seeks out. Hashem your G-d’s eyes are constantly on it from the beginning of the year till the end of the year.”

Once the grower has acknowledged that he has this relationship, the nature of his thanks to Hashem is different.

There is a difference to someone saying thank you to someone with whom he has no connection to someone saying thank you to someone with whom he has on ongoing relationship.

Through the combination of vidui and hakaras hatov, the grower is able to attain an ongoing relationship with Hashem, in which Hashem will continue to grant him the berocho that he has had up till now. Because he acknowledges that the goodness that he has is from Hashem, Hashem will continue to provide him with berocho because the physical berocho that he has sterengthens his relationship with Hashem and is good for him. This is why the Rambam says that part of mikra bikkurim is that the grower asks for a continued berocho from Hashem.

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