Bikurim of Reuven and Gad (1:8)

Bikurim (1:8) | Yisrael Bankier | 16 years ago

The previous article discussed whether a convert can read the parashat bikurim when he brings his bikurim. The opinion brought in the Mishnah held that a convert was unable to read the parashah as the portion that read “the land that you promised to our fathers” was not applicable to him.^1^ The Rambam was also quoted in the previous article who, based on another Tanaic opinion in the Yerushalmi¸ ruled that there was no difference between a convert and born Jew. He reasoned that Avraham was known as the ‘father of many nations’, which would include the convert.

Other cases are raised relating to people that were unable to read the parashat bikurim. R’ Yosi Ha’Glili (1:8) appears to argue against Chachamim maintaining that those living in the trans-Jordan area cannot even bring bikurim. This area was conquered from Sichon and Og and given to the tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of the tribe of Menashe, before Bnei Israel entered the land. He reasoned as follows: The parashah contains the following verse:

He brought us to this area, giving us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey (Devarim 26:8)

Since however, the trans-Jordan is not an area “flowing with milk and honey” the area is excluded from the laws of bikurim.

The Yerushalmi brings another Tanaic opinion who gives a different reason why those living in the trans-Jordan cannot bring bikurim. The parashah contains reference to the land “which You gave me” implying that it only refers to land which was given. Reuven and Gad, explains the Yerushalmi, took the land of their own accord. They are consequently unable to bring bikurim.

One may ask what difference does it make where the exclusion is derived? The Yerushalmi explains that the difference between the opinion in the Mishnah and the stated in the Yerushalmi affects those from the tribe of Menashe living in the trans-Jordan. According to R’ Yosi Ha’Glili they would also be excluded. The reason being is that the derivation excludes the entire region as it is not “a land flowing with milk and honey.” According to the opinion quoted in the Yerushalmi, the entire tribe of Menashe would still be able to bring bikurim. The derivation excluded the area of those people that took land – the area of the tribes of Reuven and Gad. Half the tribe of Menashe however, did not take that share; Moshe gave it to them.

Ha’Emek Davar (Bamidbar 32:33; Devarim ) explains further: The tribe of Menashe did not request any land on the trans-Jordan like Reuven and Gad. Moshe recognised that if the region was inhabited by Reuven and Gad alone, it would be significantly weak in Torah. He therefore recognised the need to plant amongst them Torah giants to enlighten them. He therefore requested that half of the tribe of Menashe would live in the area, and gave them that land. Ha’Emek Davar explains that this presented an enduring lesson for Am Israel of the importance of living a place of Torah for Jewish survival.

The Rambam (Hilchot Bikurim 2:1) rules that requirement to bring bikurim from the trans-Jordan is rabbinic. Two important points come from this ruling. The first is that the exclusion (on a biblical level) applies to the entire region. This appears to follow the opinion of our Mishnah. The second point, raised by Kesef Mishnah is that ordinarily the halacha would have accorded with the opinion of the Chachamim. Consequently, the Rambam understood that the apparent debate between the Chachamim and R’ Yosi Ha’Glili was on a rabbinic level and that all agree that the residents of the trans-Jordan are exempt from bringing bikurim.

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