Entering the Land

Friday, 4 September, 2015 - 7:45 am

Entering the Land

It is a Mitzva which can only be fulfilled once a Jew enters the land of Israel. After waiting all winter and spring, the farmer’s trees begin to give their fruit. The farmer would then take the first fruit, the Bikurim, and bring them to the Temple and bestow them upon the Priest, as a recognition that all the land, its produce and its blessings are a gift from G-d.

As the Torah says in the opening words of this week’s Parsha:

And it will be, when you come into the land which the Lord, your God, gives you for an inheritance, and you possess it and settle in it, that you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you will bring from your land, which the Lord, your God, is giving you. And you shall put [them] into a basket and go to the place which the Lord, your God, will choose to have His Name dwell there. And you shall come to the Kohen who will be [serving] in those days, and say to him, "I declare this day to the Lord, your God, that I have come to the land which the Lord swore to our forefathers to give us."[1]

When exactly does the commandment begin?

An important difference exists between the commandment of the first fruit and other commandments that apply to the produce of the land (i.e. the commandment to gift  the priest with the first piece of dough).

Historically, the Land of Israel was not divided amongst the Jews at one time. It took seven years for the Jewish people to conquer the land of Israel and another seven years to divide the land amongst the tribes and families. The people who were first in getting their portion of the land were enjoying the fruit of their land years before the last Jew received his portion of the land. Other commandments that apply to the produce of the land take effect as soon as an individual Jew enters the land and takes possession of a portion of land. The first fruit were different. The verse states:

“When you come into the land which the Lord, your God, gives you for an inheritance, and you possess it and settle in it”.

The first fruit are brought to the temple only after “and you possess it and settle in it”. As Rashi explains: “This [verse] teaches us that they were not obligated [to bring] first-fruits until they conquered the Land and divided [all of] it [the land].” Meaning no farmer was obligated to thank G-d for his fruit until the entire land was divided.

Why not?

If the purpose of the commandment is to thank G-d, why the need to wait until every last farmer receives his portion of land?

The answer lies in the verse that describes the feeling the farmer must experience while bringing the fruit:

Then, you shall rejoice with all the good that the Lord, your God, has granted you and your household you, the Levite, and the stranger who is among you.[2]

The purpose of the Bikurim is not just thanksgiving; the purpose is joyous thanksgiving. Herein lies a powerful message the Torah is teaching the farmer: yes, you are happy when your trees bear fruit. However, when you come to the place which “the Lord, your God, will choose to have His Name dwell there”, you must experience a deeper part of your soul. You must reveal the essence of your soul, which is in fact, one with all souls of Israel, and is thus incapable of experiencing the joy of inheriting the land, so long as there is another Jew still waiting for his portion.

It is easy to feel a bond with the collective Jewish people in times of crisis or in moments of overwhelming miracles. At these moments, we are shaken to our core, and at our core, we are all one. The Torah teaches that we must take these feelings of love and unity with us “when you come into the land”.

It is easy to feel connected when we are all at the foot of Mount Sinai, but we must carry the unity with us as we enter the land. In the land of Israel each man sits in his own home, “every man under his vine and under his fig-tree”, trying to grow his own personal wealth. The economic system tells us that each man is on his own. Here, the Torah is instructing us otherwise.

The teaches us to know that we cannot proclaim our joy while a fellow Jew is still wondering about. We know that our soul will not feel a full measure of joy until every last Jew is joyous.[3]


[1]        Deuteronomy 26:1-3.

[2]        Deuteronomy 26:11.

[3]         Based on the teachings of the Rebbe, Likutey Sichos, Ki Savo, Vol. 9, Sicha 1.


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