Former Shaliach in Manhattan
The parsha opens with the mitzvah of bikkurim (first fruits), which involves taking the first fruits that Hakadosh Baruch Hu has granted one and bringing them as a gift for Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Simply put, the purpose of this mitzvah is to train us to act with hakarat hatov (gratitude). In other words, the mitzvah serves as a moral lesson and a reminder of the importance of appreciating another’s kindness.
An analysis of the first few psukim of the parsha (Devarim 26) only strengthens this message. Many times, the Torah will use a specific word or grammatical root (usually in multiples of seven) in order to make a point. In this case, the Torah employs the root n.t.n. (to give) exactly seven times throughout parshat habikkurim.
By noting the positioning of this root, the following structure emerges:
As we can clearly see, the chapter is divided into two parallel subsections. In each subsection, HaKadosh Baruch Hu first gives (Eretz Yisrael) generally, then gives (fruit) on a personal level, and finally returns to giving (Eretz Yisrael or all the goodness) on a general level. The “central axis” – located between the two subsections – does not mention HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s positive giving. Instead, this middle verse refers to the hard labor “given” by the Egyptians.
What can we learn from this? Throughout Sefer Devarim, Moshe imparts pertinent lessons to Am Yisrael on the eve of their entrance to Eretz Yisrael and the shift to a more hidden Divine Providence. One of Moshe’s primary concerns is that the nation should not ever say:
“My strength and the might of my hand accumulated this wealth for me.” (Devarim 8:17)
Parshat habikkurim is meant to prevent this type of attitude by reminding the nation of the Source of all the blessings that they have received.
HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s bounty is further emphasized when it is contrasted with the Egyptians’ wickedness. We thus have HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s giving as opposed to the Egyptians’ giving. Blessings come only from HaKadosh Baruch Hu and not from any human source; therefore, we must thank only Him.
In order to truly observe the mitzvah of bikkurim, we must each internalize the Source of all the goodness which we receive. When positive things happen, when we “luck out”, and when we manage to be successful at any of our endeavors, we must never think that “my strength and the might of my hand” was the cause. Furthermore, we must not fool ourselves that our limited, human skills and talents triggered these blessings.
Rather, we must bring bikkurim and thereby indicate that we remember and are well-aware that HaKadosh Baruch Hu is the Source and Origin of our success.