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Bikurim and Remembering Amalek

  1. The Parshah begins with the Mitzvah of Bikurim. Last week’s Parshah concludes with remembering Amalek. There is a Machlokes in Yevamos 4a as to whether or not we are דורש סמוכין. But even according to the one who holds we don’t דרשין סמוכין, he agrees that in Mishneh Torah, we are דורש סמוכין. This being the case, what is the connection between the Mitzvah of Bikurim and the Mitzvah of remembering of Amalek?

At the end of Parshas Beshalach, the Jews are attacked by Amalek. The Pasuk preceding this event says ויקרא שם המקום מסה ומריבה על ריב בני ישראל ועל נסתם את ד' לאמר היש ד' בקרבנו אם אין (יז, ז) and then immediately follows ויבא עמלק וכו'. On this Pasuk, Rashi explains the connection as follows:

סמך פרשה זו למקרא זה, לומר תמיד אני ביניכם ומזומן לכל צרכיכם, ואתם אומרים (פסוק ז) היש ה' בקרבנו אם אין, חייכם שהכלב בא ונושך אתכם ואתם צועקים אלי ותדעון היכן אני. משל לאדם שהרכיב בנו על כתפו ויצא לדרך, היה אותו הבן רואה חפץ ואומר, אבא טול חפץ זה ותן לי, והוא נותן לו, וכן שניה וכן שלישית, פגעו באדם אחד, אמר לו אותו הבן ראית את אבא. אמר לו אביו אינך יודע היכן אני, השליכו מעליו ובא הכלב ונשכו

Amalek attacks when we have a lack of recognition and thanks to Hashem for everything he does for us. Amalek represents haughtiness and thinking that all one’s success comes from himself. When a person thinks this way, that’s Amalek. The essence of the Mitzvah of Bikruim is הכרת הטוב. As Rashi says on the Pasuk ואמרת אליו-שאינך כפוי טובה. Therefore, the Mitzvah of Bikurim is placed immediately after the Mitzvah of remembering Amalek to teach us that we are supposed to have HaKaras HaTov for all the good that Hashem does for us. Because when we feel unworthy, then we are thankful and are filled with gratitude. As opposed to if we have a sense of entitlement and feel that we are worthy, then we won’t be thankful and will not be filled with any gratitude.

(Side note, the Sifsei Chachamim deal with the exact translation of the word כפוי. It’s not from the lashon of כופר because then the word shouldn’t be כפוי. The Rav explained that there are two meanings to Hakara in Hakaras HaTov. One is to recognize that good is good and the second is recognition to a persons benefactor. If one lacks that recognition, then whatever is being bestowed upon him is like really being forced upon him because he doen’t understand that it’s good. Therefore it could be it comes from the lashon of כופין אותו, as if to say that the good is being forced on the person. When a person is כפוי טוב and doesn’t recognize what’s happening to him as good and he doesn’t recognize the good that is being bestowed upon him, so the good is being forced on him. That’s how כפוי טוב could come from the word כופין like in the context of כופין אותו.)

Someone that is a Baal Gavah and has a sense of entitlement, he is not thankful for what he gets and he is constantly upset about what he doesn’t have. Amalek who is רם על כל גוים, and the Medrash says about him זד יהיר, so he isn’t thankful for anything because he feels he is deserving of everything. However, the Anav who doesn’t have a sense of entitlement is always thankful. Yitzchak Avinu is the Midah of Gevurah, the Midah of Yirah. But what is so funny about Yitzchak that his name is על שם צחוק because one would think that a person who embodies the Midah of Yirah is very serious and not funny at all? But really a person who is the Midah of Yirah feels that he is worthy of nothing and therefore every minute of life to him is a pleasant surprise and therefore he is always overcome with happiness and joy and is constantly thankful. It brings him to laughter every minute Hashem grants him with life.

Psukim of Bikurim at the Seder

At the seder, we say over these Psukim in the Parshah of Bikurim and we are דורש them. Why is it that we are דורש these Psukim as opposed to just reading the more explicit Psukim in Sefer Shemos?

The Gemara in Pesachim 36a says Matzah is called לחם עוני because לחם שעונין עליו דברים הרבה. Since the only Parshah in the Torah which says וענית which is a lashon of עניה, is in the Parshah of Bikurim, therefore this Parshah was chosen to be said at the Seder because this way לחם שעונין עליו דברים הרבה could be נתקיים.

According to this we could explain some of the particular requirements that we have in the Hagadah at the Seder. For example, there is a special method of giving it over with question and answers and the requirement of מתחיל בגנות ומסיים בשבח. Also in the Ritvas Hagadah, he writes that a person should say the Hagadah בנעימה ובקול רם כפי כחו. The particular requirement for all these things is because we now use the Parshah of Bikurim for the Seder, and these things are found in that Parshah. As the Ibn Ezra writes on the Pasuk וענית that it’s possible that the Kohen asked the individual what it was he was bringing and therefore it says וענית that the person answered him. Also Rashi says on וענית ואמרת that it’s a lashon of הרמת קול and the source is in Sotah 32. Therefore it makes sense that the Ritvah says the Hagada should be said בקול רם.

Also, a reason why we are דורש the Psukim and we don’t just read the more explicit Psukim is because when it comes to הכרת הטוב, it’s not enough just to say thank you on the obvious but one must be דורש all the good that has happened to him, even the not so obvious. Like it says in the end of the Parshah ונעלך לא בלתה מעל רגליך. But in Parshas Eikev, the Pasuk says ורגליך לא בצקה which Rashi explains means that their feet didn’t swell like the feet of people who walk barefoot. The question is where they wearing shoes or where they not wearing shoes? (The Rishonim deal with this issue.) But maybe an explanation is that being that when it comes to Hakaras HaTov, a person must be דורש, so the thank you goes further than just that their shoes never wore out, but even if they weren’t wearing shoes, they were thankful for the fact that their feet didn’t get swollen.

There was a story with a Bochur in the Mir that Reb Yerucham did him a favor and a few days later, he noticed that Reb Yerucham stopped talking to him. He went over to Reb Yerucham and asked him if he had done something to the Mashigach. So the Mashgiach answered him didn’t I do you a favor? To which the boy responded yes and I thanked you for it. To which Reb Yerucham responded that when it comes to Hakaras HaTov, you have to say it like a איידנה (a Jewish woman). Meaning ט' קבין of דיבור came down for women as if to say that for Hakara HaTov, one must really be דורש and go over and over.

The Tanchuma says that when Moshe Rabbeinu saw that the Beis Hamikdash was going to be destroyed, he asked what will be a substitute for the Bikurim to which Hashem answered the three tefilos every day will be its substitute. The question is that Tefilah primarily is בקשת צרכים and Bikurim is about Hakaras HaTov so how could Tefilah be its substitute?

The Prishah in Ohr Hachaim Siman 6 says that all the ברכות ההודאה are in the sense of מודה על האמת. Because when a person is thankful, he is admitting that everything that he has and all his accomplishments are all because of Hashem’s chessed. Therefore when a person says אתה חונן or any other Brachah in Shmoneh Esrei, he is admitting to the fact that Hashem has all these things and that he is the ultimate provider and source of everything we need. So although we are asking Hashem for all these things, the request comes with the recognition and admitting that Hashem is the sole provider of everything that we need.

Confessing by Bikurim

In the Parshah of Bikurim, there is וידוי. Now וידוי is usually a confession of sins so what is a person confessing when it comes to Bikurim? (It’s really not such a question because the word וידוי doesn’t really mean confessing rather it just means saying)

The Sforno writes the following when the Pasuk says the person says the וידוי and says בערתי הקדש מן הבית:

בחטאינו ובעונות אבותינו הוסרה העבודה מהבכורות אשר להם היו ראויות תרומות ומעשרות כאמרו ואטמא אותם במתנותם בהעביר כל פטר רחם (יחזקאל כ, כו) וזהו וידוי מעשר שהזכירו רז"ל.

According to this, it’s understandable why there is וידוי meaning a confession of sins by the Bikurim because we are saying that it’s because of our sins that the Avodah was taken away from the Bechorim to who these תרומות ומעשרות were really supposed to go to.

Kedushas Levi

The Pasuk by וידוי says לא עברתי ממצותיך ולא שכחתי. The Kedushas Levi explains that we say in the davening כי זוכר כל הנשכחות אתה הוא מעולם that Hashem remembers everything we forget. Meaning, if we forget the good things that we did, then Hashem remembers them but if we remember them, then Hashem forgets them. And if we remember the bad things that we did, then Hashem forgets them but if we forget them, then Hashem remembers them. Hashem wants us to do Mitzvos but forget about them and not take credit for them because then he will remember them.

על דרך דרוש, the above Pasuk could be explained that the individual is confessingלא עברתי ממצותיך that he did all the Mitzvos but his sin is ולא שכחתי that he didn’t forget that he did them. The Viduy is that he’s confessing that he remembered his Mitzvos.

Fulfilling Hashem’s Will

The Pasuk says את ה' האמרת היום להיות לך לאלהים וללכת בדרכיו ולשמר חקיו ומצותיו ומשפטיו ולשמע בקלו (כו, יז). On this, the Sforno writes the following:

כשקבלת עליך להכנס בברית בשבועת האלה אשר בה אבדן כל טוב גשמי אם תעבור עליו האמרת ורוממת את האל יתברך בזה שיהיה יותר נכבד אצלך קיום רצונו מכל טוב גשמי

Jews understood that the service of Hashem is the only thing that is important and they are willing to compromise and give up all the good in this world in order to serve Hashem. And on the other hand, all the good in this world is worth nothing to them if they are not fulfilling Hashem’s will.

This idea can be expressed as well in another Sforno. At the end of the תוכחה the Pasuk says אלה דברי הברית. In what way is the תוכחה a Bris, a covenant? The Sforno in the beginning of Parshas Re’eh says the following:

הביטה וראה שלא יהיה ענינך על אופן בינוני כמו שהוא המנהג בשאר האומות. כי אמנם אנכי נותן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה והם שני הקצוות כי הברכה היא הצלחה יותר מן המספיק על צד היותר טוב. והקללה היא מארה מחסרת שלא יושג המספיק ושניהם לפניכם להשיג כפי מה שתבחרו

The idea of a Bris is that we are never going to be left alone. Rather Hashem will always be dealing with us, and it will either be very good or very bad. But never will Hashem let the Jews be left alone. That’s the idea of a Bris, that there is constant involvement. Therefore, although we don’t get involved in theological debates regarding the proof of Hashem and us being the chosen people, but the תוכחה is an obvious proof. Every part of the תוכחה has been fulfilled throughout Jewish History as we are always persecuted. But one should nonetheless look at it as an honor and a זכות. To the point where when a person comes to convert, we tell him but don’t you know that we are a hated and disgraced people who suffer so much, to which the convert must say איני כדאי. Because to be in such a relationship with Hashem is an honor and a זכות.

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