Barbara Cooper

The mitzvah of bikkurim — a practice run

The choicest first fruits of your land shall you bring to the House of Hashem, your G*d.” (Mishpatim 23:19)

When the Temple is rebuilt we will have to be prepared to perform the mitzvah of bikkurim.  We need to know how to do this properly, and wouldn’t it be nice to know what to expect?

Come along with me for a practice run. A little magic, please. Poof! We are farmers in the Land and have been blessed with the opportunity to perform this beautiful mitzvah. We already had the barley harvest around Pesach time followed by extremes of hot and dry climate and cold rainstorms. Now, Shavuos-time, we see the miraculous flowering and blossoming of the other fruits — wheat, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. We  reaffirm our pure faith in Hashem offering thanks for the produce of His fields.

…you shall take of the first of every fruit of the ground that you bring in from your Land that Hashem, your G*d, gives you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that Hashem, your G*d, will choose to make His Name rest there.  (Ki Savo 26:2)

So we will soon be on our way to the Temple. We survey our fields, and when we see the first ripe cluster of grapes, we announce, “Lo, these are the first fruits!” We bind them around with reed-grass to identify them. And now, we must get our baskets ready. No, no! Don’t just dump the fruits into the baskets! We arrange them separating the figs with palm leaves and placing the clusters of grapes around them at the rim.

It is a joyous time as we set out to dedicate the beginning of our fruit harvest to Hashem. Along the way, there are parades and music in each town to celebrate with us. Those of us who are pretty far from Yerushalayim bring dried figs and raisins, but our cousins who are closer can bring fresh fruits that won’t spoil along the way.

Do you see the ox up ahead? He’s wearing a wreath of olive leaves on his head, and his horns are overlaid with gold. (I wonder was brave enough to deal with that!) But perhaps this ox is serene having been chosen to participate in this mitzvah. Those of us who have set aside our whole field as first fruits must bring a peace offering so this ox may serve that purpose.

Can you hear the flutes up ahead that herald our approach to Yerushalayim? Now that we are close, we send messengers so the governors and chiefs and treasurers of the Temple will come out to meet us. The craftsmen of Yerushalayim greet us saying, “Brethren, ye are welcome!” We will hear the flutes playing until we reach the Temple Mount. As we enter the Temple Court, the Levi’im will start singing from Psalm 30: I will extol thee, O Lord, for Thou hast raised me up and hast not suffered mine enemies to rejoice over me.

And now, we place our baskets of first fruits in front of the kohen. They belong to him since he doesn’t have land of his own. We acknowledge the kindness and goodness of Hashem in a recitation of the many favors that He has bestowed upon us throughout our history.  Our mitzvah is complete.

Poof!  We are back in time to celebrate Shavuot!

Chag Sameach!!

About the Author
Once a stay-at-home mother of four children, and now grandmother to 15, Barbara spent 50 years 'children watching.' For a decade, she provided childcare in her home and was also a substitute teaching assistant at Gan Ephraim Preschool in Columbus OH. Over a period of 23 years, she made 19 trips to Israel, finally fulfilling her dream of making aliyah in 2019. She pursues ongoing independent study of Torah.
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