The Fruit Parade

Everyone likes a big and joyous parade. Our calendar year is surrounded by parades, such as homecoming parades, Thanksgiving parades, and the Celebrate Israel Parade, to name a few. Our Parsha this week, Ki Tavo, begins with the commandment of Bikkurim – First Fruits.                                                                                                

Deuteronomy 26:1-2

וְהָיָה֙ כִּֽי־תָב֣וֹא אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁר֙ יְוה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לְךָ֖ נַחֲלָ֑ה וִֽירִשְׁתָּ֖הּ וְיָשַׁ֥בְתָּ בָּֽהּ׃וְלָקַחְתָּ֞ מֵרֵאשִׁ֣ית  כׇּל־פְּרִ֣י הָאֲדָמָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר תָּבִ֧יא מֵֽאַרְצְךָ֛ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יְוָ֧ה אֱלֹהֶ֛יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לָ֖ךְ וְשַׂמְתָּ֣ בַטֶּ֑נֶא וְהָֽלַכְתָּ֙ אֶל־הַמָּק֔וֹם אֲשֶׁ֤ר יִבְחַר֙ יְוָ֣ה אֱלֹיךָ לְשַׁכֵּ֥ן שְׁמ֖וֹ שָֽׁם׃

When you enter the land that your G-d is giving you as a heritage, 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 your G-d is giving you, put it in a basket and go to the place where your G-d will choose to establish the divine name.

The Mishnaic Tractate Bikkurim records that this annual fruit parade was a sight to behold. Replete with gold and silver homemade baskets, the parade was led by cloaked oxen to the joyous music of flutes and the welcoming of the citizens of Jerusalem. What a parade!

When the fruit owner arrived at the Great Temple to present his gift to the Priest, he would recite the following:

Deuteronomy 26:5

My father was a fugitive Aramean. He went down to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there; but there he became a great and very populous nation.

This passage is a familiar one to the Jewish household because it is the opening line of the Maggid section of the Passover Seder. This seems somewhat curious. Why do we invoke our exile and exodus from Egypt when bringing the first fruits?! In a similar vein, why do we read the first fruits passage at the Seder?

I saw an answer written by the students of the Birkat Moshe Yeshiva in Maalei Adumim that explains that the Torah is instructing us that when we arrive at a momentous life occasion, it behooves us to take time to consider and appreciate all that occurred in the past that led to the celebration. So, as we offer the first fruits from our precious land of Israel, we remember that we didn’t always have a land of Israel to bring first fruits from. So too, on Passover, as we reflect and consider the thousands of years of existence we have endured, survived, and triumphed, we reflect on our humble beginnings when our father Jacob fled to Egypt, that led to servitude and ultimately freedom.

As we march forward on our personal time parade towards Rosh Hashanah, we too can think back to earlier times before we arrived at our station in life today. These reflections on the past can inspire us towards appreciation and gratitude, and to aspire towards great and important goals for the year to come.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Ephraim Epstein   
Community Scholar in Residence