Mitzvat or Mitzvot Bikkurim

Bikurim (3:7) | Natan Rickman | 16 years ago

The third perek discussed the process of bringing bikurim to the in . The sixth Mishnah lists the verses read by one bringing the Bikurim known as the parashat bikurim. An interesting development in the law pertaining to the reading of this parashah is described in the seventh Mishnah. It relates that at first those that could read would and those that were physically unable would have the Kohanim read to them and they would respond. The Mishnah then relates that those who were unable to read stopped coming to the Beit Ha’Mikdash since they were embarrassed. The Rabbi's therefore instituted that the kohen would read for everybody. This enactment demonstrates the love that the Rabbis have for the people, as they were willing to innovate within the boundaries of Torah law to accommodate those that has not been educated.

How were the Rabbis able to innovate is such a manner whereby they removed the requirement to read from those who were able? The answer to this question may be found by first determining whether the mitzvah of bringing bikurim is one mitzvah with two parts - that of bringing the fruit and of reading the parashah - or it is really two mitzvot.

The Gemara in Gittin (47b) brings a Tanaic statement “[Discussing a case where] one who sells his field for the fruit only, Reish Lakish says that the purchaser must bring bikurim but cannot read the parashah, Rebbi Yochanan says that he can bring and read the parashah”. It appears that they both view the bringing bikurim and the reading the parashah as two separate obligations. When listing the mitzvot in hilchot bikurim, the Rambam lists the first mitzvah as “To separate bikurim and bring them to the Mikdash” and third “To read (the parashah from the Torah)”.

Another example of this split are the cases discussed in past issues where people where halachically unable to read the parashah. The main reason given why they are still commanded to bring bikurim while unable to read the parashah, is because bringing bikurim demonstrates that the person recognises that his new crop comes from Hashem, and it was His grace that allowed the fruit to grow. However, as mention previously, the public declaration of “this land that Hashem has given me” is not true for this person.

Some commentators reason that these people should still be allowed to read the parashah when bringing the bikurim. They reason that in other areas, Chazal have obligated or at lest allowed woman to make berachot on Mitzvot from which they are exempt e.g. shaking of the Lulav and reading Hallel. Even though the text of the bracha contains the words "Asher Kiddishanu beMitzvotav" (that You have made me Holy with your Mitzvot) and woman are not obligated on the same level as men if at all, they are still allowed to make this declaration. This is because they are all in the general grouping of people of Am Yisrael. Nevertheless even these commentators that allow these people to read the parashah, would still agree that these are two different mitzvot.

Therefore, the reason why the Rabbis were able to stop everyone from reading the parashah themselves is because they are two separate mitzvot. The reading of the parashah is to awaken people to the truth about the lowly roots of the Jewish people and how far they have come. So hearing the section even without reading it themselves will still have this affect. However the personal bringing of the fruit, the walk to is something that every farmer needs to do themselves so that they can reflect on the Goodness of Hashem. (Another example is the mitzvah of tefillin, however we will I”YH deal with that in Menachot.)

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