Written by: Rabbi Mordechai Raizman
Understanding the Message of Bikkurim
In this week’s Torah portion, we are introduced to the mitzva of Bikkurim – the farmer’s bringing of his first fruits to the Kohen. As the farmer approaches the Kohen, the Torah gives him a directive to go back in time and state the passage of “Arami Oved Avi… – What Lavan tried to do to our forefather Jacob…” and then to continue reflecting that we also went down to Egypt and contemplate more of our struggles and that G-d saved us in all of these situations. Although, it is nice to reflect on history and be grateful for what happened then, why is the farmer given this instruction to do so at this point? What is the relevance of bringing up our past struggles as a people and G-d’s salvation for us?
Rav Aron Kotler ZT”L (the founder of Lakewood Yeshiva) answers this question with another question. He points out in the Birkat Hamazon, the grace after the meal, that not only do we thank G-d for the food that we have eaten, but also thank Him for the land of Israel, taking us out of Egypt, and for giving us the Torah. Why is this included as we thank G-d for the food we just ate?
Both of these questions illustrate a fundamental lesson in life to be learned about giving gratitude. Most of us like to think of ourselves as independent people. Therefore, to be grateful and to admit to others that you need them can be a difficult task. To acknowledge the presence of G-d for the simple things such as eating the food on our table can be a challenge as well. Through these examples, the Torah is teaching us when one is in a grateful mode, extend that gratefulness to other situations. Although it may not seem related to the function at hand, such as bringing bikkurim, reciting the Birkat Hamazon, the essence of these mitzvos is to bring out the attribute of gratitude in all other areas of our lives. As we approach the New Year, may we all merit the ability to recognize the many things for which we have to be grateful.