Major Focus: Shavuot
Minor Focus: Tithes
Abstract: Where should the Israelite farmers bring the Bikkurim (first fruits)? How much should they bring?
Format: Rabbinic Argument
"When you enter the land that God is giving you as an
inheritance, 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 God is giving
you, put it in a basket and go to the place where God will choose to
establish the Sanctuary."
Where should the farmer bring his
Bikkurim (first fruits)? How much should he
- Sifrei: After entering the
land, the Ark of the Covenant was kept at Gilgal for fourteen years, then at
Shiloh for 369 years, until the Philistines captured it. After that, central
worship continued at Nob and Gibeon for fifty-seven years until David brought
the Ark to Jerusalem and his son Solomon built the Temple. The farmers could
only bring their Bikkurim to those places, even though there were some local
places of worship during the period of Nob and Gibeon.
- What does the location of the Ark have to do with the
question, where should the farmer bring his first fruits, his
- Why was it so important to God that worship be centralized
after entering the land?
- Ramban: I agree. The
Bikkurim certainly could not be taken to any private altars, but I think only
Shiloh and the Temple in Jerusalem were used. It is possible that Bikkurim
could have been taken to Nob and Gibeon, but I doubt it, because the Sanctuary
in those places was only made from parts of the portable Tabernacle of the
wilderness, it wasn't a "real" Sanctuary made of stone like the ones at Shiloh
or Jerusalem. As to how much the farmer was supposed to bring, I don't think
there was any minimum. He could bring the whole field if he wanted!
- What difference does it make if there were periods in
Biblical history when the Tabernacle was not as permanent or complete as
others? Why would that limit its use? Did Ramban have an "edifice
- Check the Text and see if you can determine how much or how
little the farmer was supposed to bring as an offering of first
- Hullin 137b: That can't be
true. After all, we have decided how much the farmer should bring for the grain
offerings of Terumah and Masser: A generous farmer should bring 1/40th of his
crop; a conservative farmer should bring 1/50th, and a stinker need only bring
1/60th of the crop. However, for first fruits, everyone is required to bring
1/60th no matter what.
- Considering that the tithes and offerings were a form of
taxation, should it be up to the individual to decide how much or how little
they are going to contribute?
- How would you react to a voluntary taxation system, provided
you knew the nation as a whole had to raise enough for all the things a
government needs to support, including the poor?
- Peah 1,1: Not so! The Torah
makes no mention of how much we should leave in the fields for poor people, how
much to bring for the three Festivals in Jerusalem, how much hospitality to
extend, or how much to study Torah. The Torah makes no mention of how much
Bikkurim to bring either! More is better, except in the case of outright
charity where, if you give more than 20%, you will be poor yourself.
- Why did the Rabbis put a limit on charitable giving? What if
giving in excess of 20% did not make a person poor? Are there any other reasons
to limit the extent of charitable gifts?
- What might be the negative effects of telling people how
much to leave for the poor or bring as a thanksgiving
- Bikkurim 3: When the first
fruits begin to appear in the fields, one should walk among the crop and tie a
ribbon on anything meant for Bikkurim. One can give the whole field if one
wants. If the Bikkurim pledge is lost or stolen, one must replace it. When one
brings Bikkurim to Jerusalem, one must make a peace offering, sing songs with
the Leviim at the Temple, give the priest the basket for a waving, and stay
The priests will help the farmers say the blessing, even
if they don't know it. In fact, the priests will help everyone say the
blessing, so no one is embarrassed by not being learned. If one doesn't do all
these things, one has not enjoyed the Bikkurim enough. One has not fulfilled
- Does the ritualized and ceremonial aspect of offering first
fruits really enhance the joy one should feel in fulfilling this mitzvah?
Wouldn't it be better to offer thanksgiving spontaneously?
- Why do you think the Rabbis ruled the farmer must stay at
least one night in Jerusalem before going home?
- Menachot 84b: It is only
theoretical that one can bring whatever one wants. Actually, we have ruled that
only the seven species of fruit which the Torah mentions as part of the
richness of the land can be brought. Check your Rashi -- he agrees!
- Can you name the seven species of fruit mentioned in the
Bible as characteristic of Israel?
- Have you ever eaten fruit from Israel? Is it any different
from that of California or South America?
- Hirsch: Rabbis, stop
arguing! Let's concentrate on the joy of this mitzvah. After all, the mitzvah
lasted all summer long, from Shavuot until Sukkot. Each and every year, the
farmers had the privilege of going up to Jerusalem to give their Bikkurim. Each
year they could go up and say, "Just as You gave this wonderful land to my
ancestors, You have given it to me." From the moment the farmers took
possession of the land, and brought forth produce from it, they were required
to do this. Each generation joyfully says "Thank you!" again.
- Do great rabbis really argue with one another, or just have
heated discussions as part of playing "Torah Sports"?
- Do you find the summer months a more favorable time for
feeling thanksgiving to God?