In this week’s Parsha, Ki Tavo, we learn about the mitzvah of Bikkurim. This refers to when every Jew would travel to the Beit Hamikdash in Jerusalem to bring their first fruits. They would bring these fruits, the first of their crops, to the kohanim as a gift from Shavuot to Chanukah. The fruits that were brought had to be from the seven species of Israel: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. Each farmer in Israel would go to his field and find the first budding fruit. He would then tie a reed around them and verbally declare them as the "first fruits".
Both the wealthy and the poor would participate in this mitzvah. When the poor brought their fruit in reed baskets, the kohanim would accept them. However, when the rich would show up with their fruits on expensive and elaborate trays made of gold and silver, the kohanim would turn them away. Why is this? Shouldn’t the poor be the ones to be given their baskets back?
Rav Aharon Boxt brings a possible answer to this question. The Torah is not showing insensitivity to the poor, rather, it’s doing the opposite. A poor person would typically have bad crops to bring. Their first fruits
would consist of a few fruits. Rather than removing the poor man’s fruit from the basket and humiliating them by emphasizing their lack of wealth, the kohen would take the whole basket without removing the fruit for everyone to see.
The Torah greatly values people’s dignity. A person’s dignity is worth much more than the price or quality of a basket. A person might be able to make more money but recovering your dignity is a much harder feat. We should always be careful with how we treat others, especially those in need, and make sure to do many acts of kindness. Giving tzedakah is a great way to do so but we should always try to respect and preserve the dignity of the person receiving such help.
By: Dominique Behar (12th grade)