Bikkurim, Chapter One, Mishnah Four

 

Introduction

Our mishnah continues to explicate mishnah one by providing an example of someone who brings the bikkurim but does not read the declaration when he gives them to the priest.

 

Mishnah Four

These bring [bikkurim] but do not read the declaration:

1)      The convert, since he cannot say: “Which the Lord has sworn to our fathers, to give to us” (Deuteronomy 26:3). 

2)      If his mother was an Israelite, then he brings bikkurim and recites.  

3)      When he prays privately, he says: “God of the fathers of Israel,” but when he is in the synagogue, he should say: “The God of your fathers.”

4)      But if his mother was an Israelite, he says: “The God of our fathers’. 

 

Explanation

Section one: The first example of a person who brings but does not recite is a convert. This mishnah might shock the reader who is accustomed to the attitude that a convert is a “full Jew” and that the law does not discriminate against him/her. While this is largely true, and when it comes to legal rights, one cannot discriminate against a convert, the Mishnah does not accord full liturgical equality to the convert. The convert cannot recite “the Lord has sworn to our fathers” because his father was not an Israelite.

Section two: If his mother was an Israelite then he can make the declaration because he is not really a convert. It is interesting to note that the Mishnah does not take for granted that the reader knows that a person whose mother is Jewish is not a convert. It needs to clarify the matter perhaps because this law was not yet firmly established at the time when the Mishnah was composed.

Section three: The liturgical inequality extends to prayer as well. The convert cannot state “Our God and the God of our fathers” which is in the opening lines of the Amidah because our God was not the God of his fathers. Rather, when he prays on his own he should say “our God, God of the fathers of Israel” and when he prays in the synagogue, probably as the prayer leader, he should say, “The God of your fathers.”

I should note that this is no longer practiced. A convert recites the same Amidah as does every other Jew.

Section four: Again, if his mother was an Israelite he is not a convert and therefore he can say “Our God, and the God of our fathers.”

 

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