Torah Study-Shavuot: What Are Our First Fruits?

Shavuot: What Are Our First Fruits?

(A text study led by Rabbi J.B. Sacks on June 12, 2024)


TEXT: Mishnah Bikkurim 3:2-4

כֵּיצַד מַעֲלִין אֶת הַבִּכּוּרִים? כָּל הָעֲיָרוֹת שֶׁבַּמַּעֲמָד מִתְכַּנְּסוֹת לָעִיר שֶׁל מַעֲמָד, וְלָנִין בִּרְחוֹבָהּ שֶׁל עִיר, וְלֹא הָיוּ נִכְנָסִין לַבָּתִּים. וְלַמַּשְׁכִּים, הָיָה הַמְמֻנֶּה אוֹמֵר “קוּמוּ וְנַעֲלֶה צִיּוֹן אֶל בֵּית ה’ אֱלֹהֵינוּ:” הַקְּרוֹבִים מְבִיאִים הַתְּאֵנִים וְהָעֲנָבִים, וְהָרְחוֹקִים מְבִיאִים גְּרוֹגָרוֹת וְצִמּוּקִים. וְהַשּׁוֹר הוֹלֵךְ לִפְנֵיהֶם וְקַרְנָיו מְצֻפּוֹת זָהָב, וַעֲטֶרֶת שֶׁל זַיִת בְּרֹאשׁוֹ. הֶחָלִיל מַכֶּה לִפְנֵיהֶם, עַד שֶׁמַּגִּיעִים קָרוֹב לִירוּשָׁלָיִם. הִגִּיעוּ קָרוֹב לִירוּשָׁלַיִם, שָׁלְחוּ לִפְנֵיהֶם,

וְעִטְּרוּ אֶת בִּכּוּרֵיהֶם. הַפַּחוֹת הַסְּגָנִים וְהַגִּזְבָּרִים יוֹצְאִים לִקְרָאתָם. לְפִי כְבוֹד הַנִּכְנָסִים הָיוּ יוֹצְאִים. וְכָל בַּעֲלֵי אֻמָּנִיּוֹת שֶׁבִּירוּשָׁלַיִם עוֹמְדִים לִפְנֵיהֶם וְשׁוֹאֲלִין בִּשְׁלוֹמָם, אַחֵינוּ אַנְשֵׁי הַמָּקוֹם פְּלוֹנִי, בָּאתֶם לְשָׁלוֹם הֶחָלִיל מַכֶּה לִפְנֵיהֶם עַד שֶׁמַּגִּיעִין לְהַר הַבָּיִת. הִגִּיעוּ לְהַר הַבַּיִת, אֲפִלּוּ אַגְרִיפַּס הַמֶּלֶךְ נוֹטֵל הַסַּל עַל כְּתֵפוֹ

וְנִכְנָס. עַד שֶׁמַּגִּיעַ לָעֲזָרָה. הִגִּיעַ לָעֲזָרָה וְדִבְּרוּ הַלְוִיִּם בַּשִּׁיר


(2) How do they bring the Bikkurim up [to Jerusalem]? All the cities of a Ma’amad[1] would assemble in the [main] city of the Ma’amad and sleep in the streets without entering into the houses. As they awoke, the supervisor would say, “Arise! Let us go up to Zion, to the house of HaShem our God.”[2]

(3) Those living close [to Jerusalem] would bring fresh figs and grapes and those from afar would bring dried figs and raisins. An ox would go before them, its horns plated with gold, and an olive wreath around its head. (4) The flute would play before them until they got close to Jerusalem. Once they got close to Jerusalem, they would send [a messenger] ahead of them and adorned their Bikkurim. The overseers and the officers and the treasurers would go out to greet them. In accordance with the stature of those coming in would they go out. All the artisans of Jerusalem would stand before them and greet them, “Our brothers and sisters from so-and-so, come in peace! The flute would continue playing before them until they arrived at the Temple Mount. Once they arrived at the Temple Mount, even Agripas the King would carry his basket on his shoulder and enter until he reached the courtyard. Once they got to the courtyard the Levites would speak in song…”


Please consider [NOTE: Those in italics were questions we covered in our discussion]:

Why do they sleep in the city streets and do not enter the houses?

❧ What do those living close to Jerusalem bring, and those living far away? Why this distinction?

How do the residents of Jerusalem receive the guests?

What characterizes the ceremony of bringing the first fruits? What is the atmosphere in it?

❧ What do you think of the ceremony of bringing the first fruits? Would you want to participate in such a ceremony?

❧ Is there any point in fulfilling the precept of bringing first fruits nowadays?

What are our first fruits? What are the fruits of our time together (prayer, celebration, study, et al) these past thirteen years?

How will you continue to offer your first fruits to the community through and with Rabbi Goldstein?


TEXT 2A: Deuteronomy 26:1-3

וְהָיָה֙ כִּֽי־תָב֣וֹא אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁר֙ יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לְךָ֖ נַחֲלָ֑ה וִֽירִשְׁתָּ֖הּ וְיָשַׁ֥בְתָּ בָּֽהּ׃ וְלקַחְתָּ֞ מֵרֵאשִׁ֣ית ׀ כׇּל־פְּרִ֣י הָאֲדָמָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר תָּבִ֧יא מֵֽאַרְצְךָ֛ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יְהֹוָ֧ה אֱלֹהֶ֛יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לָ֖ךְ וְשַׂמְתָּ֣ בַטֶּ֑נֶא וְהָֽלַכְתָּ֙ אֶל־הַמָּק֔וֹם אֲשֶׁ֤ר יִבְחַר֙ יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ לְשַׁכֵּ֥ן שְׁמ֖וֹ שָֽׁם׃ וּבָאתָ֙ אֶל־הַכֹּהֵ֔ן אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִהְיֶ֖ה בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֑ם וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֵלָ֗יו הִגַּ֤דְתִּי הַיּוֹם֙ לַיהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ

כִּי־בָ֙אתִי֙ אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר נִשְׁבַּ֧ע יְהֹוָ֛ה לַאֲבֹתֵ֖ינוּ לָ֥תֶת לָֽנוּ׃

When you enter the land that HaShem your G!d is giving you as a heritage,

and you possess it and settle in it, you shall take some of every first fruit

of the soil, which you harvest from the land that HaShem your God is giving you, put it in a basket and go to the place where HaShem your God will choose to establish the divine name. You shall go to the priest in charge at that time and say to him, “I acknowledge this day before your HaShem God that I have entered the land that HaShem swore to our ancestors to assign us.”


TEXT 2B: Rashi on 26:3

ואמרת אליו. שֶׁאֵינְךָ כְּפוּי טוֹבָה:

“And say to him”–that you are not ungrateful.

Please consider:

❧ As you think back on our years together, what is it you are grateful for?

❧ How will you make your gratitude manifest to each other, to the congregation

            and to Rabbi Goldstein this coming year?


[1] One of 24 regions, each of which sent in turn a delegation to the Temple to be present and represent the entire people of the region at the public sacrifices.

[2] Jeremiah 31.5.

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