This week’s Torah portion begins with the Mitzvah of Bikurim. The owner of a field in the Land of Israel has a Mitzvah to declare as Bikurim the first fruits to bud from the seven species that Israel is noted for; wheat, barley, grapes, figs, olives, pomegranates, and dates. He identifies the first fruits by attaching a ribbon on the first fruits that bud.
After Shavuos the owner must travel to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem with his Bikurim in a basket and present it to a Kohain – Priest, who places it near the Altar. The owner then makes a statement of thanks to G-d for all the good that He has done in the past for the Jewish people, and for all the blessings that he personally received.
The Kohain waves the basket of Bikurim up and down and in all four directions and the Kohain keeps and enjoys the Bikurim.
The concept of the Mitzvah of giving the first fruits of our labor, is that G-d wants to instill in us the recognition that despite all the work and toil we put into the land, we recognize that our success is not attributed to ourselves, rather, everything that we receive is a gift from G-d. We express this by not personally indulging in the first of the yield, rather we present it to G-d through the Kohain as the Torah prescribes.
My uncle Rabbi Moshe Saks o.b.m. wondered that there seems to be a contradiction in the words of the verse. The verse doesn’t say, “you should take the first fruits”, rather, it says, “you should take from the first fruits.” Our sages derive from this that not all fruits are obligated in Bikurim only the select seven species as mentioned above. However, immediately afterwards the Torah states ‘all the fruits of the ground,’ which seems to include all the fruit types of the land.
The Talmud states: “One who eats without reciting a blessing is as if he has stolen from G-d and the entirety of the Jewish people.”
The Maharsha in his commentary asks, “I can understand why when one eats without a blessing it is as if he has stolen from G-d because he failed to express his recognition of the source of his sustenance. But why is it as if he has stolen from the entirety of the Jewish people? How does his lack of expression of blessing affect his fellow making it is as if he stole from him?”
The Maharsha answers with an amazing concept that explains how each individual Jew’s personal action or inaction directly affects others as well.
When one fails to recite a blessing over food, besides failing to create a personal blessing of flow and connection with G-d, his lack of blessing prevents G-d’s blessing from spreading onto the land of his fellows as well. This affects his fellow’s productivity negatively and is therefore considered as if he stole from the Jewish people!
My uncle used this concept to explain the verse in question regarding Bikurim.
Yes, it was only the seven species that were fit for the Mitzvah of Bikurim, but when the Torah states, ‘all the fruits of the land,” it is referring to the blessing that the fulfillment of the Mitzvah of Bikurim will do to all the other produce of the land of Israel!”
We all seek ways to have a positive influence on people, society and the world. We should bear in mind that through a ‘simple’ blessing we recite over our food, after eating, or during our prayers, we create, establish and direct fantastic Heavenly blessings to ourselves, and the entire world!
The Torah states, upon entry into the land of Israel, the Jewish people are to accept a list of eleven prohibitions which are typically done privately. One of the laws stated is, “Cursed is the one who strikes down his neighbor in secret.” Rashi explains that this is reference to the prohibition of Loshon Harah – speaking ill of others which is usually said behind one’s back.
Today, more than any other time in history do we see what the power and far reaching effect of negative speech has. One can either remain incognito or openly brazen with the liberty to tweet and share insults, slander, gossip or defame another, causing insurmountable anguish, without thinking twice about the repercussions. This causes pain, destruction, illness, death and pollution due to G-d’s curses.
The same laws were given over to the people in the positive, “Blessed is one who does not strike down his neighbor in secret, and they all said, Amain!”
When one refrains from the impulse to degrade another – it is only he/she and the Almighty who are aware of that restraint – and G-d guarantees us that beautiful blessings will result!