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Friday, September 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Ki Savo

This week's parsha begins with the laws pertaining to the bringing of bikurim. The bringing of the bikurim is accompanied by a recitation of a number of verses known as viduy bikurim. The first pasuk that he must recite reads (26:3) "higadti hayom laShem elokecha ki vasi el ha'aretz asher nishba HaShem la'avoseinu..." Rashi on pasuk 10 writes that due to the possessive reference to the forefathers in this pasukavoseinu, a ger (convert) who brings bikurim does not recite the viduy for the land was never promised to his forefathers. This ruling is based on the Sifrei and the mishnah (Bikurim 1:4). However, the Yerushalmi (Bikurim 1:4) reaches the opposite conclusion. The halachic ruling is further a matter of dispute in Tosafos (Baba Basra 81a). Rambam (Hilchos Bikurim 4:3) writes that a ger does in fact read the viduy for the reason given in the Yerushalmi, that the word avoseinu can be interpreted as referring to Avraham Avinu who is called av hamon goyim. Thus, even geirim can claim Avraham as a father.

    What is puzzling about this ruling of the Rambam is that with regards to viduy ma'aser, the next issue dealt with in the parsha, he rules (Hilchos Ma'aser Sheini 11:17) that the ger does not read the viduy. The viduy for ma'aser contains the identical term, la'avoseinu. However, Rambam's ruling is due to the reference made to Eretz Yisrael (26:15) as ha'adamah asher nasata lanu, the land that You gave us and geirim do not have a portion in the land. But a similar phrase is found in viduy bikurim, (26:3ha'aretz asher nishba HaShem la'avoseinu lases lanu. What is the difference between the wording in viduy bikurim and the wording of viduy ma'aser that led Rambam to rule differently?

The sefer Kapos Temarim suggests that the difference lies in the tense of the reference to Eretz Yisrael. In viduy ma'aser we refer to the land that "was given" in the past tense. This would exclude geirim because they were not given a portion in the land when they came initially. However, in viduy bikurim we refer to the land that was sworn "to be given" in the future. There is a pasuk in Yechezkel that suggests that geirim will ultimately get a portion in Eretz Yisrael. So this pasuk does not exclude geirim. Although in viduy bikurim there is also a reference (26:10) to the land that "was given," this refers to the land that he actually owns and not to the land that was promised to the forefathers from which the geirim were excluded. Therefore, geirim may read viduy bikurim.

The sefer Aruch LaNer suggests another difference between ma'aser and bikurim. The ger's reading of the viduy is predicated upon the word la'avoseinu referring to Avraham Avinu. However, the word la'avoseinu in viduy ma'aser appears in connection to the promise of eretz zavas chalav udvash, the land flowing with milk and honey. The forefathers were never promised a land of milk and honey. The reference to milk and honey was not mentioned until B'nei Yisrael were in Egypt. Since la'avoseinu could not refer to Avraham Avinu in this instance, it must exclude the ger from reading this viduy.

I thought that perhaps another difference might be that in viduy bikurim the land is referred to as ha'aretz whereas in viduy ma'aser it is referred to as ha'adamah. Perhaps ha'aretz refers to the country as a whole. The privilege to benefit from Eretz Yisrael surely does not exclude geirim. The country was given to them just as it was to anyone else. Therefore, there is no reason to exclude them. But the word adamah refers more to the ground itself which connotes actual property. Real property was something that geirim were not granted and therefore, they are excluded.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: Balancing the Shevatim 

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