Parshat Ki Tavo 5779: Vidui Bikkurim — Paradigm for Expressing Appreciation to One’s Host, and for Other Kindnesses?

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua Ki Tavo is co-sponsored by Shlomo and Shoshana Weis of Ramat Beit Shemesh and dedicated for hotslocha to entire Weis family and for a refuah shleima for Rachel bat Chaya Perel, and by Yechiel and Tova Nussbaum, also of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated lilui nishas for Tova’s cousin Irene Greenwald. To the Weis and Nussbaum families, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Ki Tavo 5779: Vidui Bikkurim — Paradigm for Expressing Appreciation to One’s Host, and for Other Kindnesses

by Moshe Burt

Torah outlines, at the beginning of our Parshat, the ceremony in which farmers were to take their first fruits, the Bikkurim, to the Beit HaMikdash and present them to the Kohen in a ritual which included expression of gratitude to Hashem for all that He had done for them..

This expression by the farmers of gratitude to Hashem, expressed via the Kohen, is rendered to English by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin in his sefer “Unlocking The Torah Text,” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 26, posukim 5-10, page 261):

“An Aramean sought to destroy my forefather and he descended to Egypt [Mitzrayim] and dwelt there, few in number, and he became there a great nation, great, atrong and numerous.

“And the Mitzriyim mistreated us and afflicted us, and they placed upon us hard work.

“And we cried out to Hashem, the G’d of our fathers, and Hashem heard our cries, and He saw our affliction and our travail and our oppression.

“And Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim with a strong hand and an outstretched arm and with great awesomeness and with signs and wonders.

“And He brought us to this place, and He gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

“And now behold, I have brought the first of the fruits of the ground that You have given me, O Hashem!”

The Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash (pages 1068-1069) explains:

The Jew’s gift of the first fruits, or Bikkurim, to the Kohen symbolizes that he dedicates everything he has to the service of Hashem. For a Jew to say that his every accomplishment… is a gift from Hashem, is one of the goals of Creation.

Rabbi Goldin then cites Mishnah Pesachim 10:4 (“Unlocking The Torah Text,” pages 261-262):

A rabbinic decision made centuries after the writing of the Torah catapults this passage [Sefer Devarim, Perek 26, posukim 5-10] into another position of prominence in… liturgy.

When the sages decide[d] to formalize the Haggadah, the text used as a guide for the fulfillment of the obligations of the Pesach Seder, they select[ed] one biblical passage as the centerpiece of the Mitzvah of sippur Yetziyat Mityzrayim, retelling the story of our liberation from Mitzrayim on Seder night. The biblical section they choose is the Vidui Bikkurim [while omitting the final two posukim — Sefer Devarim, Perek 26, posukim 9-10].

Rabbi Goldin continues (ibid, pages 265-266):

When… the farmer begins to discuss the birthing pangs of B’nei Ysrael in the cauldron of Egyptian slavery, a remarkable change occurs. Suddenly this man, speaking centuries after the Yetziyat Mitzrayim, begins to speak of these historical events in the first person….

As the vidui progresses, the farmer is transformed from an observer to a personal participant. He no longer objectively reports on events that happened to others; he now describes events as if they happened to him. Past, present and future merge for the Jew, once the nation of the Jews is born. An event that happens to any Jew at any time happens to all the Jews at all times.

As we channel the words of that long-ago farmer, bringing his first fruits to the Beit Hamikdash, we join him in his… journey as well. Together we become one with our forefathers…, as if it happened to us.

This author views the Vidui Bikkurim, the verbal expression of the farmer’s gratitude to Hashem which accompanies the first fruits, as a model of how we should express appreciation to a Host, and for other kindnesses done for us by our fellows.

Rabbi Chaim Zev Malinowitz, Rav of Beit Knesset Beit Tefillah Yona Avraham in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel says a brief Halacha vort nightly, following Maariv. On two occasions, he spoke of the importance of giving kavod and expressing appreciation when one is hosted for meals and/or for sleep accommodations.

On one occasion, Rav Malinowitz spoke about the importance for guests to insert into their Birkat Hamazon a special Blessing for their hosts which this author cites with the Artscroll Siddur’s translation of the Bracha and commentary:

“May it be Hashem’s will that this host not be shamed nor humiliated in This World or in the World to Come. May he be successful in all his dealings. May his dealings be successful and conveniently close at hand. May no evil impediment reign over his handiwork, and may no semblance of sin or iniquitous thought attach itself to him from this time and forever.” (Artscroll Siddur, Ashkenaz, page 193 citing the text found in Shulchan Aruch)

The Talmud (Brachot 46a) gives a rather lengthy text of the blessing that a guest inserts… for the host. It is quoted with minor variations in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 201) and many authorities are at a loss to explain why the prescribed text has fallen into disuse in favor of the briefer version commonly used.

On the other occasion, R’ Malinowitz expressed that while guests readily compliment their hosts on the food served or for the accommodations, often “thank you” seems to be omitted, seemingly as if a small, minor detail.

While the hosts are performing the great Mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim (the Mitzvah of having guests in their homes for either meals and/or for lodging), hard-wired into Jews’ DNA since Avraham Avinu, these two expressions — the special Bracha insert[ed] into Birkat Hamazon and compliments accompanied by “thank you” — convey sincere appreciation for all of the hosts’ efforts.

Perhaps, these sincere expressions of appreciation to hosts equate, to some extent, in the same way as the Brachot of HaGefen, HaMotzi and Birkat Hamazon express blessing and appreciation to Hashem before and after eating a meal, or as the farmer’s expression of gratitude to Hashem, by way of the Kohen, when presenting the first fruits. And let us not forget the multitudes of other kindnesses done by others which we are recipient of when in need.

Sefer Devarim, Parshat Eikev, Perek 11, posuk 22 with commentary from the Artscroll Stone Chumash (page 997):

“For if you will observe this total commandment that I command you, to perform it, to love Hashem Kelokim, to walk in all His ways and to cleave to Him”

Moshe… tells his people that they must… walk in Hashem’s ways by imitating His acts of kindness and concern for the needy, and by cleaving to Him…. Ramban interprets “cleaving” as the duty to avoid the temptation of idolatry by always remembering Hashem and inspiring oneself to love Him.

Sefer Devarim, Parshat Ki Tavo, Perek 27, posuk 1 with commentary from the Artscroll Stone Chumash (page 1073):

“Moshe and the elders of Israel commanded the people saying, ‘Observe the entire commandment that I command you this day.'”

Moshe now commanded the people that upon entering the Land, … they were to commit themselves anew to Hashem and the Torah. They would do this by inscribing the entire Torah on twelve huge stones, by bringing offerings at two mountains to affirm their allegiance…. Moshe… summoned the elders of Israel to join him in this proclamation.

As Rosh Hashana approaches, we must undertake a groundswell to bring about a Jewish nation in consonance with Hashem’s spirit in having these Torah-inscribed stones placed at our border and at Gilgal.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the twice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.