This week we read Parshas Ki Tzavo. The Parsha begins with the words “Vehaya Ki Savo el Haaretz – And it will be, when you come to the land of Israel,”… (Deuteronomy 26:1). The Torah then instructs us about the mitzvah of bikurim, the mitzvah of the first fruits. Every farmer in the entire land of Israel was obligated to take the first fruits that grew on his land and to bring them to the Temple in Jerusalem, and to present them to the priest over there. The Sages tell us that the word “Vehaya (And it will be) indicates an immediate obligation – that the commandment to bring bikurim (the first fruits) to Jerusalem and to give them to the priest, began immediately – as soon as they got to the land of Israel. On the other hand, the Sages themselves teach us in the Talmud, (Kiddushin 37a) that the obligation to bring bikurim (the first fruits) only began after the land of Israel was conquered by the Jewish people and divided by them. What then does the Medrash mean when it says that the obligation began immediately?
Rav Moshe Sternbuch explains, that we have to look at the lesson that bikkurim teaches each and every one of us. Why should the farmer have to give the first of his fruits? Wouldn’t it be good enough to give the leftovers, or at least to give something when part was also already taken for his family?
The Torah wanted to teach us a lesson. Obviously, we have personal needs that we must provide for. However, the greatest thing that can be accomplished with our resources is to support Torah Scholars. When the farmer brought his first produce to the priest, he was showing that the most important thing that he felt he could do with his property is to support those who are serving Hashem all day and night.
We are taught in the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) “One who wants to bring merit to himself should overcome his evil nature and give whatever he does with for the sake of Heaven, and with give from the best. If he builds a Synagogue, it should be nicer than his own home; If he feeds the poor he should give him from the best food on his table. If he clothes the naked he should give him his best clothes,…(Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 248:8) This is why the one who gives bikkurim had to give from the first fruits.
Moses taught this lesson to the Jewish people right away. True, technically they could have waited until they divided the land of Israel before they began the mitzvah of giving bikkurim. However, Moses wanted them to start immediately, even before they were technically obligated to, so that they would live with this lesson as soon as they began having profit from the land.