Ki Tavo-Vidui

After identifying and harvesting the first fruits (bikurim) that characterize the land of Israel (grapes, pomegranates, dates, figs, olives, wheat and barley), the Jews were required to bring them to the Temple in Jerusalem.  There, they would present their first fruits to the Cohen, and then read a vidui, or “confession.”  It went like this:  “Lavan the Arami sought to destroy my father, and he descended to Egypt and lived there for awhile, becoming a great powerful and large nation. But, the Egyptians treated us cruelly and caused us suffering, imposing lard labor upon us.  And we cried out to the Lord, God of our forefathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our suffering and our labor and the pressure applied to us.  And God took us out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, imposing great fear, signs and miracles.  And He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.  And now, I have brought the first of the fruits of the land that God gave me.”

Although this recitation gives a broad overview of  Jewish history, it does not include some of the important events that accompanied Jewish history until they settled the land of Israel.  Why does it not mention, for example, the splitting of the sea, the war with Amalek, and the well in the desert?  These are all among the kind events with which God provided us on the way to the promised Land, so why would we not recall them as we are bringing the first fruits?

One might answer that the Torah wished only to mention the “important” events, and not those that were mere results or tangents from the main events.  And that’s why it did not mention the splitting of the sea or the war with Amalek, etc…because these were auxiliary events that only took place as a result of the exodus from Egypt.  Even though each is a seminal event in it’s own right, they would not have occurred had we not left Egypt, and in this short viduy that we make in the Temple, we wish only to record the exodus itself.

However, if this is the explanation, then something is missing.  There was a major event that took place that is not mentioned at all.  If the brief overview of history is only for the purpose of mentioning the main events, why did we not mention the struggle of Yakov with his brother Esau and his eventual victory?  This was a major event that determined the future of the Jewish people, and even if the results of the exodus were not mentioned, the struggle between Yakov and Esau should have been mentioned.

But, the answer is that in the viduy associated with bringing the bikurim to the temple, our main goal is to declare our satisfaction and happiness with our new state of permanence.  Having entered, conquered, divided and settled the Land, it was now important to declare our long term comfort with our new situation.  And in order to do so, we draw a contrast between what we experienced previously, and what we are now experiencing.  Specifically, there were two periods in Jewish history in which we dwelt for an extended period of time, and we were not treated well.  Those two periods were 1) when Yakov went down to Aram and worked for his father in law, Lavan, and 2) when the Jews went down to Egypt.  During these two periods of time, the Jews lived for 20 years, and 210 years, respectively, and although there were good years among them, most of the time was accompanied by torment and negativity from their hosts.  And therefore, we mention specifically these periods during the viduy of the bikurim – we wish to emphasize that there were extended periods when we lived in various places, but now we have arrived to OUR place, the land of Israel and here we live without any disturbances, but in peace and quiet, free to serve the One above.

For a more detailed version, go to www.jerusalemconnection.org

From Likutei Sichot of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol 14, page 93-98

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