Ki Tavo: Bikkurim, the offering of our hands

The Torah stresses ‘the hands’ in the mitzva of Bikkurim, for a symbolic, moral and historic reason.

Danny Ginsbourg ,

Danny Ginsbourg
Danny Ginsbourg

Our Parsha opens with the Mitzvah of ביכורים:’The first fruits’, which(26:2-4)’You shall put in a basket and go to the place that Hashem..will choose; You shall come to the Kohen..the Kohen shall take the basket from your hand, and lay it before the Altar of Hashem’.

Our Sages teach that the ביכורים are then raised, and waved, jointly by the hands of the bringer, and of the Kohen.

The Abarbanel notes that this Mitzvah had already been given in several earlier Parshiot, but ‘Moshe our Master saw the need to expound here, when the Bikkurim were to be brought’- only after the conquest and settlement of the Land- ‘and the way in which it was be brought, the vidui which was to be said, and other details of the performance of the Mitzvah’.

Rav Pinchas Friedman notes that in one of these earlier Parshiot, the Torah uses an ‘unusual’ תואר: title for the Mitzvah:(Re’eh 12:6)תרומת ידכם: ‘the offering that you raise with your hands’.

Asks the Rav:’Since the sole reason for the ‘raising of the hands’, is to enable the raising and waving of the ביכורים, should not the Mitzvah have been called ‘the raising of the ביכורים׳, and NOT ‘the raising of the hands’?

‘Why then does the Torah here stress the ‘raising of the hands’?’.

Answers the Rav:’Our Sages explain that the purpose of the vidui, which precedes the raising and waving- and indeed of the entire Mitzvah- is to say:שאינך כפוי טובה: ‘That you are not an ingrate’.

‘The Torah had already warned us (Eikev 8:14:18), of the dangers of prosperity, when we settle in our Land, and see the fruits of our toil, lest ‘your heart will become haughty, and you will forget Hashem..And you may say in your heart that’ My strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth’; Then you shall remember Hashem, your G-d, that it was He Who gave you strength to make wealth’.

‘The Torah stresses ‘the hands’, and not any other part of the body, because most of our activities are performed by our hands.

‘This is beautifully alluded to by the numerical value of יד: hand, being 14, so that the numerical value of two hands is 28, which is, of course, the numerical value of כח!

This teaches us that the כח which made the success, ‘the two hands’ which seemed to have been the source of this wealth, was given to you by Hashem:’That it was He who gave you the כח to make wealth’.

‘Therefore, the Torah, in calling the Mitzvah ‘the offering of your hands’, is telling us that, when bringing his Bikkurim, the grateful person, in truth, is making an ‘offering of his hands’- thereby symbolically declaring that all his wealth as from Hashem, including the Bukurim, and the hands through which he ‘succeeded’.

Avraham Avinu and Moshe Rabenu each taught us this ‘article of faith’, in two separate incidents related in the Torah.

We read (Lech Lecha 14:21-23) of the offer of the King of S’dom to Avraham, after the Battle of the Kings, in which they had triumphed:’Give me the captives, and you take the possessions for yourself;Avraham said to the King of S’dom:הרימותי ידי: I have lifted my hand to Hashem, G-d, the Most High, Maker of heaven and earth, if so much as a thread or a shoe strap; or if I shall take from anything of yours! So you shall not say:’It is I who made Avraham rich’.

Rav Shmuel Gintzler comments on the deeper lesson from this exchange:’This is why the Midrash refers to Avraham Avinu, as: נקי כפים:’clean of hands’, not ascribing any כח: strength or dominion, to his hands- but ascribing all only to Hashem’.

Similarly, we find that Moshe Rabenu ‘removed his hands’ from any suggestion that they were the ‘reasons’ for success, in the battle against Amalek (Beshalach 17:11)), we read :’It happened that when Moshe raised his hand, Israel was stronger, and when he lowered his hand, Amalek was stronger’.

Explain our Sages: By ‘raising his hand’ heaven-wards, Moshe was ‘removing’ any thought that human ‘might’ was the critical factor; rather, his hand pointed upwards, to ‘tell’ the people that all was in Hashem’s ‘hands’.

The people looking upwards were signifying that they put their trust only in Hashem; this was rewarded by Hashem defeating their enemy, Amalek.

By following in the path of these two giants, the person bringing the Bikurim is, כביכול, ‘testifying’ that Hashem has fulfilled His promise to each of them:

Hashem promised avraham Avinu (Lech Lecha 17:8):’And I will give to you and to your offspring after you- the whole of the Land of Cana’an, as an everlasting possession’.

Similarly, Hashem promised Moshe Rabenu (Va’eira 6:8):’I shall bring you to the land about which I raised My hand to give it to Abraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov, and I shall give it to you as a heritage’.

A parting thought: If we, too, go in the path of Avraham Avinu- the ‘father of the believers’ - and of Moshe Rabenu- who transmitted the Torah and Mitzvot to us- surely we shall merit the fulfillment of Hashem’s blessings to us- and to our beloved Land!

לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך נחום בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.