Parshat Ki Tavo: Bikkurim

In This Week’s Parshah we read of the declaration of Bikkurim – “First-Fruits” which the Children of Ya’acov are to profess in the place which HaShem shall choose –

Devarim 26.1-11: 1 “And it shall be, when thou art come in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and dost possess it, and dwell therein; [….] 5 And thou shalt speak and say before the LORD thy God: ‘A wandering Aramean was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there, few in number; and he became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous. [….] 11 And thou shalt rejoice in all the good which the LORD thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thy house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is in the midst of thee.”

The Pesach Hagaddah reads: “An Aramean [Laban] tried to destroy my father.”

“Come and learn what Laban the Aramean sought to do to our father, Jacob. For Pharaoh issued his edict against only the males, but Laban sought to uproot us all, as it is said, ‘An Aramean would have destroyed my father, and he went down to Egypt and he became there a great nation, strong and numerous.’”

One of the most difficult texts in the Haggadah is arami oved avi.” The Haggadah includes the Rabbinic interpretation of the verse, reading it as “An Aramean tried to destroy my father.” This verse, is at the center of the Haggadah and its rabbinic interpretation differs dramatically from the Torah text. The traditional Haggadah provides a long section of midrash, rabbinic interpretation, in which the verses of Deuteronomy 26:5-8 are examined in light of the spiritual and political history of the Jewish people.

The Torah never tells us that Laban went down to Egypt [Mitzrayim], but only that:

Laban falsely accused Ya’acov of stealing his idols (for which Rachel was ‘punished’):

B’rashith 31.30 And now that thou art surely gone, because thou sore longest after thy father’s house, wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?’

Ya’acov innocently protested, “B’rashith 31.32 With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, he shall not live; before our brethren discern thou what is thine with me, and take it to thee.’–For Jacob knew not that Rachel had stolen them.– The Torah is explicit –

1) Laban was warned by HaShem – B’rashith 31.29 It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt; but the God of your father spoke unto me yesternight, saying: Take heed to thyself that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.

2) Laban returned to Aram (32.1); and,

3) Ya’acov became a Great Nation there (in Mitzrayim) AFTER wandering landless as a shepard in Paddan Aram….

The Midrash Pesach Hagaddah changed “oved” to “ibed”:

The midrash tells us that if you change the vowels from “oved” to “ibed,” the meaning is changed from “wandering” to “destroyed.” Thus, ” A wandering Aramean was my father” will read, “An Aramean [Laban] tried to destroy my father.”

Ya’acov lived in Aram, while courting Rachel and working for her father Laban, an Aramean [viz, which we would call a modern day Syrian]. Consequently, in the Pesach Hagaddah, Laban is usually seen as the Aramean who would have sought to destroy Ya’acob, reminding us of the treachery of Laban, who tricked Ya’acov into marrying Leah before Rachel, then tricked him into twenty years of servitude, and finally tried to deny him his dowry. Therefore, Laban may be viewed as the symbol of everyone who has tried to destroy the Jewish People.

Had Laban, (the reasoning goes,) not tricked Avinu Ya’acov into marrying Leah, the first-born would have been Yoseph and the exile into Egypt would never have happened! So how is this related to “Laban [an Aramean] trying to destroy my father?”

Laban said, [B’rashith (Genesis) 31.43] “And Laban answered and said unto Jacob: ‘The daughters are my daughters, and the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks, and all that thou seest is mine; [….]”

While Rashi accepted the Pesach Hagaddah reading, Ibn Ezra strongly rejected it, in favor of the interpretation that the verse refers to Ya’acov, who, when he was in Aram, was lost.

In reading the Midrash (Hagaddah) together with B’rashith 31.43, if one takes into account the accusation of Laban that Ya’acov stole Laban’s idols, we can see how this accusation might suffice to “uproot everything” (as the penalty for theft of idols would be a death sentence); yet, we are left with the phrase “he went down into Egypt,” so identifying who went down to Egypt tells us who the Aramean is.

“A wandering Aramean was my father [’arami ’oved avi]; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous.” The Torah says, “he went down into Egypt…, and there he became a great nation….” This passuk serves to identify who the wandering Aramean is: Clearly, our Torah teaches that Laban returned to Aram (32.1) and Ya’acov went down to Egypt and [there] became a great nation (46.27).

Ibn Ezra, rejects the interpretation of the Midrash Pesach Hagaddah and says, Ya’acov was lost while in Aram! Which I interpret to mean he was without roots in the land [of Paddan Aram], that is, he was a landless dweller in tents. He kept to his “family trade” – to tradition.

The Ibn Ezra makes two points. First, he proves the grammatical impossibility of the Haggada’s reading. He then suggests that the Aramean is Yaakov, who dwelt with Lavan in Aram. The intention, once again, is to stress how our forefathers had no land, and therefore, that the Land of Israel is a gift only by virtue of G-D to Am Yisrael.

I might stress, Bikkurim (“First-Fruits” pri ha’adama) are “a gift [specifically connected to Eretz Yisrael] only by virtue of G-D to Am Yisrael.”

Going back to the source for the Bikurim ritual, (Devarim 26.1-11) verse 10 tells us to end this Bikurim (First-fruits) Recitation with our definitive connection to the Land of Eretz Yisrael! The Torah is emphasizing that we are no longer landless subject to the whims and wages of a foreign master [Laban]: “you have changed my wages these ten times,” B’rashith 31.41) but we, as Ya’acov’s children are the object of HaShem’s blessing in the Land of Eretz Yisrael, that which HaShem has sworn to our fathers and has given to us: Devarim’s emphasis in 26.2, and 10 is on the land (ha’Adamah הָאֲדָמָה that HaShem chose, [Moriah] the place of sacrifice B’rashith 8.8, 13, 21; 22.14) which the Children of Ya’acov possess for an inheritance!

Devarim 26.2 “that thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which thou shalt bring in from thy land that the LORD thy God giveth thee;” here, the emphasis is on the land and the first-fruits which belongs to the Priest in the place HaShem chose. “pri haAdamah” – “which thou shalt bring in from thy land….”

“And it will be when you are come into the land… and possess it, etc.”; “I profess this day unto the L-RD thy G-D, that I am come unto the land which the L-RD swore unto our fathers to give us.'” Devarim 26.10 “And now, behold, I have brought the first of the fruit of the land, which Thou, O L-RD, hast given me.’ And thou shalt set it down before the L-RD thy G-D, and worship before the L-RD thy G-D.”

It can not be stressed enough, these passages teach and refers to teshuvah –

the return of the exiles to the Land and to the place sworn to our fathers (see 30.1-10) :

Devarim 26.2 that thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, מֵרֵאשִׁית כָּל-פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה which thou shalt bring in from thy land מֵאַרְצְךָ אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ that the L-RD thy G-D giveth thee; and thou shalt put it in a basket and shalt go unto the place which the L-RD thy G-D shall choose to cause His name to dwell there. 3 And thou shalt come unto the priest that shall be in those days, and say unto him: ‘I profess this day unto the L-RD thy G-D, that I am come unto the land כִּי-בָאתִי אֶל-הָאָרֶץ which the L-RD swore unto our fathers to give us.’

Devarim 26.10 And now, behold, I have brought the first of the fruit of the land, הִנֵּה הֵבֵאתִי אֶת-רֵאשִׁית פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה , אֲשֶׁר-נָתַתָּה לִּי, יְהוָה which Thou, O L-RD, hast given me.’ And thou shalt set it down before the L-RD thy G-D, and worship before the L-RD thy G-D. 11 And thou shalt rejoice in all the good וְשָׂמַחְתָּ בְכָל-הַטּוֹב which the L-RD thy G-D hath given unto thee, and unto thy house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is in the midst of thee.

We see from this parshah 26.11 [וְשָׂמַחְתָּ בְכָל-הַטּוֹב] (see 28.47 “because you did not serve the L-RD, your G-D, with happiness and with gladness of heart, when [you had an] abundance of everything.” ) and Parshah Nitzavim 30.9 [ “for the L-RD will again rejoice over thee for good, as He rejoiced over thy fathers;” ] middah keneged middah – measure for measure rejoicing of HaShem and Am Yisrael!

For this reason our Tanak teaches that in the Messianic Era Yitzchaq’s name will be changed to read Yischaq –

Yitzchaq’s Name is Changed to Yischaq

Tehillim 105.9

[The covenant] which He made with Abraham, and His oath unto Isaac; לְיִשְׂחָק

Netsiv goes on to point out that Psalms 105, which is identical to chapter 16 in Chronicles I in all but one verse, foretells a better future, in which also Yitshak’s name will be altered. Referring to God’s covenant with the patriarchs, the ninth verse in this Psalm differs from its correlate (Chronicles I, 16:16) in that the name Yitshak is spelled Yishak in the phrase: “Ushevua-to leYitshak.” Says Netsiv, David foretold through divine inspiration that some day, the patriarch would be renamed to indicate the full joy that would replace the mockery.”

Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin of Volozhin, Ha’amek Davar: Commentary on the Pentateuch, New York: Friedman.

<https://www.lookstein.org/professional-dev/and-sarah-laughed/&gt;

A little Gematria-

The difference in spelling is apparent – The one Yitzchaq is with a tzaddi צְ the other, Yischaq is with a sin שְׂ. The difference in gematria is 90 from 300= 210 Resh YudYireh fear, as in, the fear of Avraham 22.12 “for now I know that you are a G-D fearing man” כִּ֣י | עַתָּ֣ה יָדַ֗עְתִּי כִּֽי־ יְרֵ֤א אֱלֹהִים֙

Devarim 6.13 Thou shalt fear the L-RD thy G-D; and Him shalt thou serve, and by His name shalt thou swear. 10.12 And now, Israel, what doth the L-RD thy G-D require of thee, but to fear the L-RD thy G-D, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the L-RD thy G-D with all thy heart and with all thy soul; 10.20 Thou shalt fear the L-RD thy G-D; Him shalt thou serve; and to Him shalt thou cleave, and by His name shalt thou swear.

 

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