Hadrash Ve-Haiyun
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Torah Insights on the Weekly Parsha
by Efraim Levine

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HaGoan R' Aaron Levine zt"l
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Hadrash Ve-Haiyan

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And you shall take of the first of every fruit of the ground that you bring in from your land that Hashem your G-d gives you and you shall put it into a basket and go to the place that Hashem your, God will choose to make his name rest there. (Devarim 26:2)

The posuk here refers to the bikurim as “reishis,” the first of your fruits. In the very beginning of the Torah the Midrash notes that the word “Bereishis” may be interpreted as b’ reishis. The posuk would then read, “for the sake of reishis did Hashem create the heaven and the earth.” The Midrash explains that the word reishis is a reference the mitzvah of bikurim, which is also called reishis as mentioned above. The posuk is thus saying that for the sake of bikurim did Hashem create heaven and earth. We may ask, what great significance lie in bikurim that the whole world was created for its sake?

The Baal Haturim notes that that all the letters of the aleph beis appear in the parsha of bikurim with the exception of samach. The Baal Haturim continues to note that although the letter samach does not appear openly it does appear in a hidden way. The word “teneh,” translated as basket, has the numerical value of sixty, which also equals to the value of the letter samach. We may ask, what is the significance of this hidden reference to the letter samach.

We are familiar that the Torah is comprised of two parts, the written text and the oral teachings. The oral portion of Torah represents the true explanation and interpretation of the written Torah. According to our tradition the oral portion of Torah is comprised of exactly sixty tractates. A key characteristic of the oral portion of Torah is that ideally it may not to be committed to writing but only transmitted from teacher to student orally.

Let us suggest that the basket of bikurim serves as a symbol for the oral Torah. Just as the Oral Torah is comprised of sixty tractates and is not to be committed to writing, likewise the numerical value of the basket is exactly sixty and stands unique in that it is the only letter that is not written openly in the parsha.

The posuk says that one should take his first fruits and carefully place them in a basket.  Homiletically, we may interpret this as meaning that one should take the best of his material blessings and devote them to the teachings of the Torah. By emphasizing the oral traditions the Torah underscores that one should strive for fulfillment in Torah learning and traditional Torah values which are key characteristics of the oral Torah.

Alternatively, we may suggest that the Torah is saying that one can only protect his material blessing by guarding them with the values and teachings of the oral Torah.

We may now understand the Midrash mentioned above. At the very start of the Written Torah the posuk alluded to the mitzvah of bikurim. The Torah at the outset states that this material world was created only so that we take its material blessing and put it into the spiritual basket of the oral Torah. Only by fulfilling the commandments of the written Torah that are fully captured and elucidated in the delicate basket of the oral Torah can we merit to benefit from this world and achieve the purpose of Creation. Indeed there are many posukim and teaching of chazal that support this idea that this world was created to elevate the mundane through the holiness of the oral Torah.


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Efraim Levine 5761/2001