Ki Tavo-Bikurim

The first and primary mitzvah of this week’s parsha (Ki Tavo) is bikurim, which are the first fruits of the season.  When they first began to grow, the farmers of Israel would go out to the field and tie a ribbon or sign on the first wheat, barley, grapes, pomegranate, fig, date or olives that would appear.  He would then bring them to the Temple as an offering, an expression of his supreme happiness at having coming to the land of Israel and successfully settled it.

Rashi explains, however that it was not necessary for the Jewish farmer to bring his fruits until the entire land of Israel had been divided among the Jews and settled.  This he actually makes clear earlier (Num 15:18), saying that whenever the Torah uses the phraseology, “When you come to the land,” it refers not only to the arrival, but also to the conquest and division of the land.”  Since Rashi now repeats this instruction (not to bring bikurim until the entire land was conquered, etc…), at the beginning of our parsha, he must have a special reason for doing so.

His reasoning was as follows: The process of conquering and dividing the land was a gradual one.  It did not occur overnight.  Even as some tribes and individuals conquered and settled part of the land, others were still busy in the process.  And bikurim is not a general mitzvah such as appointing a king or building the Beit Hamikdash, but a specific mitzvah incumbent upon every individual Jew.  And therefore, we might have thought that in this case, as each Jew conquered and settled his “corner” of the land of Israel, that he became obligated to bring the bikurim, the “first fruits.”  That’s why Rashi finds it necessary to reiterate and state what was otherwise obvious;  even as each individual settles his homestead, he does not become obligated until all of the Jews have completed the conquest and division of the Land.

Why is this?  The answer is that bikurim expresses our happiness and gratitude to the One above for having brought us to this stage of peacefully settling and tilling the land of Israel.  However, our happiness is not complete until the entire people of Israel are dwelling on the land.  We cannot suffice with our own personal happiness; true happiness occurs only when all the Jews are “together” in the mitzvah – and that only occurred after the conquest and division of the land of Israel among all the tribes.

Parshat Ki Tavo is always read near to the holiday of Chai Ellul, birthday of both the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe.  The Baal Shem Tov revealed that every Jew  can serve God, while the Alter Rebbe demonstrated how every Jew can serve God.  This progression is also reflected in the first words of our parsha, “When you come to the land of Israel and settle it…”  “When you come…” corresponds to the Baal Shem Tov, who sought to bring every Jew to realize the part within that is connected to God and therefore enable him to serve God.  “And settle it…” corresponds to the Alter Rebbe, who in Tanya demonstrated how every Jew can and should serve God.

for a longer more detailed version, go to

From Likutei Sichot of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol 9, Pp 52-61

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