A Convert and Bikurim

Bikurim (1:4) | Ohad Fixler | 16 years ago

The first Mishnah in Bikurim states that there are different categories of people that relate to bringing bikurim. These categories depend on two details: Who can bring bikurim and of those who can bring bikurim, who can read the parashat bikurim. In the fourth Mishnah we find a list of people that can bring bikurim but cannot read the parashah:

The people bring but do not read: The convert brings but does not read since he cannot say “[the land] which Hashem promised our forefathers to give us.”

The Mishnah writes that even though the convert can bring the bikurim he cannot read the parashah as it has contents that does not appear to apply to him. Since the convert was not part of Am Yisrael during the period when they left , saying these p’sukim would be lying.

The Gemarah (Makkot 19a) mentions this same ruling in the name of Rav Ashi. The Rambam however rules in contrast to this Mishnah and Gemarah. The Rambam in the Mishnah Torah (Bikurim 4:3) writes that a convert can bring bikurim and read the parashat bikurim since the land, in the first instance, was promised to Avraham who was known as ‘the father of many nations’ (‘av hamon goi’im’) and consequently the father of converts as well.

Another halachic ramification that comes out of this analysis is the question of whether a kohen and levi can read the parashat bikurim as they do not technically have a share in the land. The Rambam explains that since the land was promised to Avraham, the kohen and levi can also read the parashah.

Despite this explanation, one must explain why the Rambam appears to rule against the Mishnah and Gemarah.

There is a famous letter of the Rambam’s (Tshuvot HaRambam 293) written to R’ Ovadya the convert in which he discusses matters relating to converts and in particular, this issue. In the response, the Rambam explains that there is no practical halachic difference between a convert and a born Jew. Similarly, when praying, a convert uses the same text and says “our G-d and G-d of our fathers” by virtue of the fact that we are all the sons of Avraham who spread the faith in Hashem throughout the world.

At the end of the response the Rambam cites the Yerushalmi (Bikurim 1:4) as the source of his ruling:

It was taught in the name of R’ Yehudah: the convert brings [bikurim] and reads [the parashah]. Why? [Since it is written] “I have placed you as the father of many nations” – in the past you were the father of and from now on are the father of all the nations. R’ Yehoshua ben Levi said: the halacha is according to R’ Yehudah. A case came before R’ Avahu and was ruled like R’ Yehudah.

From this Gemarah we see that our Mishnah resembles the opinion of R’ Meir. R’ Yehudah however argues that there is no difference between a born Jew and a convert. From the Rambam’s responsa we find a two levelled explanation of his ruling in the Mishnah Torah.

  1. The source is from the Yerushalmi

  2. The ruling stems from a philosophic position that there is no difference between a convert and a born Jew.

A different slant is found in the responsa of Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe 2:112). Rav Feinstein explain that when a goy purchases land from a Jew in , he does not have the ability to remove the sanctity from that land, i.e. one is still obligated to remove trumot u’ma’asrot from its produce. Rav Feinstein explains that a ger as apposed to a goy can perform a complete acquisition such that he can remove the kedushah, yet in the process also generates a new kedushah. This new chiyuv to separate trumot u’ma’asrot stems from his acquisition and that he too has a share in the land being from the seed of Avraham. Since he has the ability for this full acquisition, he may bring bikurim and read the parashah.

Rav Feinstein does not contradict the Rambam rather he simply understands that there is a need to explain how the acquisition works. For a born Jew, the source of the kedushah stems from the original acquisition of those that entered land (olei mitzrayim or olei bavel). A convert however generates this kedushah himself.


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