Supremely Important

by Rabbi Nussbaum
September 4, 2020
ELUL 15, 5780
Candlelighting Time 7:07 PM

         We are commanded to bring the first fruits of the season to the Beis Hamikdash. The Kohen receives them, waves them together with the owner and then keeps them for his own use. The Torah states that we should bring the fruits to the Kohen who is presently living. Of course, the obvious question is how could we do otherwise and bring them to a Kohen from a different time who is not presently living? Therefore, Rashi cites the Midrash that even though the Kohen living presently may not be as prestigious as the Kohen of yesteryear, nonetheless he is acceptable and we may perform the mitzvah with him.

            Nachmonides disputes this because the level of righteousness of the Kohen should not impact the performance of the mitzvah. If we were concerned about someone’s academic ability or noble character because it would negatively impinge accomplishing this mitzvah, then Rashi’s comment would be understood. However, since this mitzvah is easily  done with simply accepting the first fruits any Kohen could be involved.

            Netziv explains that bringing the first fruits is tantamount to offering a sacrifice in the Beis Hamikdash. Through performance of this mitzvah, we merit that our future crops will be abundant and plentiful. However, this result depends upon the level of the Kohen’s relationship with Hashem. The consumption of these fruits by the Kohen is commensurate with the sacrificial order that we perform with an animal upon the altar. Therefore, one would be inclined to investigate the ‘credentials’ of the Kohen to be assured that his merit is of sufficient caliber in order that the mitzvah is performed well so that we can anticipate next year’s success in this matter. The Talmud also states that when one brings a gift to a Torah scholar it is as though he has brought the first fruits of the year. In other words, connecting with those who are the genuine representatives of Hashem brings blessings of plenitude in to the world. 

            Ibn Ezra presents a fascinating aspect to this mitzvah. Unless the Kohen receiving the first fruits is the High Priests then there is no obligation to perform this mitzvah. Rabbeinu Bachya echoes this same understanding and recognizes the importance of the High Priest because the one bringing the fruits declares to the High Priest that Hashem indeed is responsible for his success since He brought them to Israel. This proclamation serves to identify the bringer’s recognition as one that is steeped in his strong belief of Hashem’s role in our success. Furthermore, we connect to Hashem through the level of service of the High Priest, elevating and deepening our appreciation of all that Hashem’s does for us in all aspects of life. Of course, it stands to reason that the transference of the fruits from its owner to the control of the High Priest is done with absolute solemnity reflecting the significance of this mitzvah.

            Rashi explains that the theme of this mitzvah is to express our thanksgiving to Hashem for our present bounty and invoke His blessing for the future. Chinuch adds that it is vital to verbally state our acknowledgment to Hashem as this instills within us a profound and meaningful appreciation for all that we have merited. Indeed, humbling ourselves in the presence of one of most esteemed members of the nation gives much credence to our statement both in terms of its acceptance by Hashem and its assimilation in to our very essence.


In recounting our thanks to Hashem we say that we cried out to Hashem and He heard our voice in our times of need. It does not say that He heard our prayers, rather our voice. When we are faced with adversarial situations, we must cry out vociferously to be granted Divine assistance.        CHOFETZ CHAIM