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Friday, August 31

The Weekly Shtikle - Ki Savo

This week's parsha begins with the process of the bringing of bikurim, the first fruits, and the passages that are to be recited at the time that they are brought. We are instructed (26:3) "And you shall come to the kohein in those days and you shall say to him: 'I have said today to HaShem your God that I have come to the land that HaShem has sworn to our fathers to give to us.'" Rashi, on the words ve'amarta eilav, and you shall say to him, comments "[to show] that you are not ungrateful." This implies that the very purpose of the recitation is to show that he is not ungrateful. My father points out, however, that the very essence of bikurim is an expression of thanks to HaShem. We go out of our way to show that we appreciate that everything comes from HaShem by bringing our first fruits to Yerushalayim. Why would anyone think us ungrateful that we should have to recite this passage to refute that perception? Furthermore, it is strange that Rashi would make this comment on the words ve'amarta eilav, rather than on the actual words that are recited, where the gratitude is actually expressed.


My father's answer is based on a remarkable interpretation of bikurim from Netziv in Ha'amek Davar. He is bothered by the words "HaShem Elokecha," as opposed to "HaShem Elokeinu." Why are we referring to HaShem as the God of the kohein rather than our God. He answers that the purpose of the bikurim process going through the kohein is so that we may show gratitude to the righteous kohanim, that in their merit and through the Providence bestowed upon them by HaShem, that we are worthy of entering Eretz Yisrael. That is why we direct the opening passage towards the kohein.


Rashi, as well, is not suggesting that we are showing that we are not ungrateful to HaShem. Our actions are indicative enough in that regard. Rather, we are going out of our way to show that we are not ungrateful to the kohein for his spiritual influence on the nation and the merit that he brings to the nation as a whole. And that is why Rashi is explaining the words ve'amarta eilav. He is explaining why we are talking to the kohein. The kohein is more than just a middle man in the bikurim process. He is an essential figure. Rashi points out on the words (26:3) asher yihyeh bayamim haheim, that you have only the kohein of your day and your generation. It is not our task to delve into the level of righteousness of one particular kohein or another. By virtue of the service he performs for our nation, he is deserved of this gift.


This week, the Mishnah Yomis program began the seventh perek of maseches Sotah, which discusses which passages may be recited in any language and which must be recited in leshon hakodesh. Three of the different procedures are found in this week's parsha, including that for bikurim and viduy ma'aser. While viduy ma'aser may be recited in any language, mikra bikurim must be recited in leshon hakodesh. One has to wonder why they are different. I haven't worked out the specifics but perhaps the difference lies in the nature of mikra bikurim as we have discussed above. Viduy ma'aser is really a conversation strictly between the subject and HaShem so the language does not matter. Perhaps the involvement and significance of the kohein in mikra bikurim is what necessitates leshon hakodesh.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: Balancing the Shevatim at Har Gerizim and Har Eival
Dikdukian: Tough Day at the Office

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