SALT - Friday, 20 Elul 5776 - September 23, 2016

  • Rav David Silverberg

Please daven for Malka Etel bat Chana who was in a car accident and will be undergoing surgery this Friday.

            The Torah commands in the beginning of Parashat Ki-Tavo that when a farmer brings his bikkurim (first fruits) to the Beit Ha-mikdash, he must declare to the kohen, “Higadeti hayom la-Hashem Elokekha ki vati el ha-aretz…” – “I proclaim to the Lord your God that I have entered the land…” (26:3).

            Ibn Ezra, commenting on the word “higadeti” in this verse, writes, somewhat ambiguously, “in order that the children will understand.”  It appears that in Ibn Ezra’s view, the Torah uses the word “higadeti” (“I proclaim,” or “I relate”) in this verse to indicate that the proclamation must be made in such a manner that the farmer’s children will hear and understand it. 

            To explain Ibn Ezra’s reading of this verse, Rav Yitzchak Shrim, in his Be’er Yitzchak, suggests that Ibn Ezra understood the verb “h.g.d.” to refer specifically to telling somebody something which he does not already know.  Hence, if this verb is used to describe the farmer proclaiming the purpose of his bringing bikkurim to the Temple, then we must conclude that the farmer makes this declaration to somebody who does not already understand the message of bikkurim, the message of, “I have entered the land.”  Ibn Ezra thus explained that although the farmer makes this declaration to the kohen, the objective is to inform his children that God has brought us into the Land of Israel and therefore the first fruits must be brought to Him, as it were, to acknowledge that the land is His.

            Ibn Ezra’s comments may perhaps invite a novel explanation for the connection between bikkurim and the maggid section of the Haggada on Pesach.  The Torah relates that after the first fruits are placed by the altar, the farmer recites a text – known as mikra bikkurim – briefly reviewing the story of the Egyptian bondage and the Exodus.  These verses (26:5-8) form the basis of the maggid text which Chazal formulated for fulfilling the mitzva of sippur Yetzi’at Mitzrayim – telling the story of the Exodus on the first night of Pesach.  In maggid, we cite the mikra bikkurim text, one word or series of words at a time, and then explain it, and this is how we fulfill our obligation to speak of the Exodus on Pesach night.  Different theories have been proposed to explain why specifically the text of mikra bikkurim was chosen for this purpose, but the explanation might lie in Ibn Ezra’s understanding of the word “higadeti,” as implying an obligation to inform one’s children about the message underlying bikkurim.  According to Ibn Ezra, a variation of the obligation of “ve-higadeta le-vinkha” (Shemot 13:8), to tell one’s children the story of the Exodus on Pesach, applied on a different occasion – when one brought his first fruits to the Temple each year.  Then, too, the Torah requires “haggada” – to tell one’s children about our nation’s history as downtrodden slaves, and how God miraculously extricated us from this condition.  Since the Torah dictated for us the text to be used for the “haggada” obligation when bringing bikkurim, Chazal adopted this text as the one we should use to fulfill the “haggada” obligation on Pesach, as well.  We specifically use the text of mikra bikkurim on Pesach because these two obligations – mikra bikkurim and sippur Yetzi’at Mitzrayim – are, essentially, one and the same, requiring us to teach our children about the Exodus from Egypt.