* Many commentaries including the RAMBAM – Maimonides – say the whole issue of the commandment of bikurim, (first fruits are brought from the seven species – wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates which the land of Israel is most famous for), is to stress man’s total submission and appreciation to G-d. When a land-owner notices that the first fruits of any of the aforementioned begin to ripen in his field, he ties a thread around it to mark it bikurim. When it ripens, he takes it to the Temple, as part of his tithe. The first fruits of the land were chosen to express this basic principle, because whatever is first is always precious to a person.
The same concept applies to pidyon haben – redeeming of the first born son. It’s special because it has enhanced the status of man to father; there is a continuity of the new father where he has the opportunity to pass down the Jewish tradition which he has received from his father. The precious valuable commodity firstborn belongs to G-d and the father proudly redeems the boy. The ceremony consists of the father purchasing back his son from any Kohen (they are G-d’s representatives) for five silver coins. The ceremony is conducted on the 30th day from birth. If one is not redeemed on the 30th day, he can still do the procedure in his lifetime regardless if his father is alive; he can redeem himself. The reason bikurim-first fruits – is emphasized is because after the Israelites entered and settled in the promised land, Israel, we must take great care to ensure we don’t have any delusions that it was because of my strength that I have attained this wealth. Every year that our ancestors brought bikurim was testimonial that the earth is G-d’s. It’s not our land, it’s His. So bringing the first which is always so special would be a meaningful gift to G-d. There are a number of firsts which are important to discuss. How important it is therefore for a woman to hold herself until her wedding and let her husband be the first. It is a tremendous added plus to the relationship. Unfortunately, at certain times in our history we were tremendously subservient to our gentile oppressors who demanded that the first night would belong to the gentile officers before the Jewish groom. The enemy knew they would dampen and sour the relationship and bond which would have a detrimental lasting effect on the newlyweds. This is, by the way, one of the curses which we find later in the Parsha. “You shall betroth a wife and another will take her.” We also find that the acts of smelling, touching, seeing, and hearing for the first time, is a lot more pleasurable at first. Human nature has always anointed the first in every aspect of life, as special.
* Interesting to note – there is no commandment in this Parsha where the owner gives the teruma and ma’aser. However, the commandment is on the declaration of the Teruma and ma’aser (end of Pesach fourth and seventh year). We see how the Torah finds speech crucial in the ongoing daily activities of man. What distinguishes us from the animal kingdom, who can physically receive and give, is the power of speech.
* The question is asked who has a greater reward, someone who is obligated to do a Torah commandment or someone who doesn’t but does it anyway? The answer is someone who has the obligation and does it. A person who inherits an obligation is struck a psychological burden on himself therefore greater is his evil which prevents him from accomplishing the mandatory task. The other with no obligation feels lightweight. It’s an easier feeling when one can pull out at any given time with no obligations.
* The Jews were instructed that as soon as they enter the land they should erect monuments and write the Torah on each. Rav Sadya Gaon says only the commandments that were written but not the full text.
* Moshe commanded that on the day the Jews enter the land under his successor’s leadership, they were to travel directly to Mt. Greezim and the adjacent mountain, Mt. Aival, where the twelve tribes will be divided equally on each mountain, and they will pronounce G-d’s blessings and curses. The kohanim, Levites, and the ark would remain in the valley between the two mountains. The levi’im then would begin the recitation of the blessing and the two sides will answer amen. Why did G-d command the Jews to listen to curses and blessings on the day they entered the holy land? This was a new covenant, a new acceptance of the Torah in the land itself. The two mountains would serve as two internal witnesses who remind the Jews of their pledge to keep the Torah in the land of Israel.
* “Bless shall you be when you enter and bless shall you be when you leave.” This is a very popular slogan which is found in the entrance in many Jewish homes. You shall leave this world as free of sin as you were when you came into it (Rashi).
* “G-d should place you as a head and not as a tail.” This is one of the brachot we say symbolically to have a good year on Rosh Hashanah. It is possible that one can be a leader to some but to be a follower to others. G-d promises that if Israel is worthy, it will be respected by everyone and subservient to no one.
* Many times in our lives, human nature dictates, we do not appreciate or are sensitive enough to fully comprehend the event that occurred most recent in our lives. It takes some time to digest. Moshe has tried to inject an awareness drug so they can comprehend now what has transpired and put the wilderness years into perspective. Unfortunately, for us we cannot fully understand or appreciate until the event, time, or individual is gone.