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Dvar for Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8)

This week’s Parsha introduces the rules of bikkurim, the first fruits that are brought to the Beit Hamikdash (Temple). The ceremony is scripted, including the farmer saying, “I have declared to G-d that I came to the land that our forefathers were promised” (26:3). The Kohen (priest) then takes the basket of fruits, after which the farmer immediately “answers” by briefly recapping the history of the Jewish people from the time they went to Egypt and became slaves, and were subsequently freed (26:5). However, the script seems to be missing something, as it mentions a declaration that was not previously mentioned, and an answer to a question that was not asked.

Rabbi David Fohrman asks these questions and offers an enlightening answer. He suggests that the mere presence of the farmer with his fruits is itself a declaration. The farmer’s attendance bears witness to the fulfillment of G-d’s promise of a home for the Jewish people. But does the farmer really understand his actions? After putting down the basket, the farmer goes into the history of the people, giving context to his actions.

It is easy to get caught up with the details of life and lose sight of the bigger picture. We follow rules, directions, and commandments, but understanding why we do things will make our actions more meaningful to us and for those that look up to us. The process of bikkurim outlines a process that infuses meaning into our actions: Showing up is the first step, taking positive action is the second step, and understanding our action’s purpose and significance confirms that those actions will be meaningful and eternal.

Shlomo Ressler