Thursday, September 11, 2014

lessons from parshas bikurim for a year in Israel

On Monday night I had the zechus of bringing my oldest daughter to the airport to see her off to Israel for a year in seminary.  Parents and daughter are still adjusting.  : )  

The farmer who brings his bikurim to the Mikdash says, “Higadti hayom… ki basi el ha’aretz asher nishba Hashem Elokecha lases lanu…”  R’ Tzadok haKohen asks: “higadti” means “I have declared.”  Where is this declaration that the farmer made?  This is the first sentence he is saying to the Kohen – there was no declaration yet!

R’ Tzadok answers that it’s the act of bringing bikurim itself which is the declaration of belief that it’s Hashem who is in control and who brought us into Eretz Yisrael in fulfillment of his promise to the Avos.  By forgoing eating those first fruits, the most cherished part of the crop, and bringing them to the kohen, the farmer is making a statement.  Actions speak louder than words. 

Before each Shabbos the past few weeks I’ve posted divrei Torah that relate to Eretz Yisrael which I also share at home in an effort to impress on my kids the need for solidarity with Eretz Yisrael, to appreciate the importance of Eretz Yisrael, to realize that our future as a people is only in Eretz Yisrael.  But no matter how many divrei Torah they hear, no matter how often the message is repeated, it’s not the same as driving to the airport and saying goodbye.  Higadti hayom…”  Sending our bikurim, our children, to Eretz Yisrael,whether for a year or more than a year, says more than all the words can. 

The Sifri on our parsha writes, “Aseh mitzvah zu she’bishvila tikanes la’aretz,” do this mitzvah [of bikkurim] and it will allow you to enter Eretz Yisrael.  There is an obvious problem: the gemara (Kid 36) writes that the mitzvah of bikkurim can be done only after kibush v’chiluk, only after the land was conquered and divided among the shevatim.  That was 14 years after the people first stepped foot in the country.  How can the mitzvah of bikurim be the means by which we will be zocheh to enter Eretz Yisrael when the mitzvah can be done only once we are already there?

This Sifri is teaching us an important lesson.  What defines Eretz Yisrael is not geographical boundaries or population or establishing an autonomous Jewish government.  You can move out Kena’anim and fill whatever square number of miles you want with a Jewish population and set up a malchus and that still won’t make it Eretz Yisrael.  What makes it into Eretz Yisrael is the fact that it is the spiritual homeland and the spiritual center of Jewish life.  What makes it Eretz Yisrael is the farmer’s willingness to come to the Mikdash with those first fruits that he really wants to taste and give them up to acknowledge that it’s not about him – it’s the yad Hashem gives us the land and the crops and everything else that we have (based on R' Reuvain Katz's 'Dudai Reuvain').

My middle daughter remarked that the airport on Monday night looked like the annual Beis Ya’akov convention.   Baruch Hashem!  Going to Eretz Yisrael for a year has become the thing to do.  But therein lies the danger.  If it’s just about seeing the sights and hanging out with friends and going because it’s the thing to do, then your passport may be stamped Eretz Yisrael and your plane may have landed in Ben Gurion airport, but that’s not really where you are.   It’s only Eretz Yisrael if you bring bikurim, if you come to see the yad Hashem that makes it our spiritual homeland.  
I hope my daughter and all the others who are there take advantage of the opportunity.


  1. Wow, your comments on R. Tzadok -- incredibly powerful.

    I would love to share this at our table tonight, but I just don't think I will be able to get through it without bawling like a baby. (On the other hand, my posse here seems to enjoy it whenever Abba cries over a dvar torah, so we'll see.)

  2. I just saw the ksav sofer -beginning of ki savo - where he answers both these point and a whole lot more. a very chusheve piece