Introduction to Tractate Bikkurim

 

The first fruits of the seven species that Israel was “blessed with” (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olive oil and date honey) must be brought to the Temple in Jerusalem and given to the priests. These fruits are called in Hebrew, bikkurim.

The Mishnah describes an elaborate procession whereby the people would carry decorated baskets in which they would place their first fruits. While many people would bring their first fruits during one of the pilgrimage festivals, either Shavuot or Sukkot, in order to avoid having to come to the Temple again, others would make special trips just to bring the bikkurim. These trips would have been occasions of great festivity.

When a person hands his bikkurim over to the priest he has to make a formal declaration. This declaration is found in Deuteronomy 26 (see below) and is elaborated upon in the Mishnah.

Tractate Bikkurim contains a fourth chapter that is not really part of the Mishnah. It was a medieval addition that was appended to the Mishnah from the Tosefta (a parallel tannaitic source). Nevertheless, we have included it in Mishnah Yomit because it is included in many printed editions of the Mishnah.

Below are the verses from the Torah which mention bikkurim.

 

Exodus 23:19

The choice first fruits of your soil you shall bring to the house of the LORD your God.

 

Numbers 18:13

The first fruits of everything in their land, that they bring to the LORD, shall be yours; everyone of your household who is clean may eat them.

 

Deuteronomy 26

1When you enter the land that the LORD your God is giving you as a heritage, and you possess it and settle in it,

2 you shall take some of every first fruit of the soil, which you harvest from the land that the LORD your God is giving you, put it in a basket and go to the place where the LORD your God will choose to establish His name.

3 You shall go to the priest in charge at that time and say to him, “I acknowledge this day before the LORD your God that I have entered the land that the LORD swore to our fathers to assign us.”

4 The priest shall take the basket from your hand and set it down in front of the altar of the LORD your God.

5 You shall then recite as follows before the LORD your God: “My father was a fugitive Aramean. He went down to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there; but there he became a great and very populous nation.

6 The Egyptians dealt harshly with us and oppressed us; they imposed heavy labor upon us.

7 We cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our plea and saw our plight, our misery, and our oppression.

8 The LORD freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, and by signs and portents.

9 He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

10 Wherefore I now bring the first fruits of the soil which You, O LORD, have given me.” You shall leave it before the LORD your God and bow low before the LORD your God.

11 And you shall enjoy, together with the Levite and the stranger in your midst, all the bounty that the LORD your God has bestowed upon you and your household.

 

Good luck learning Tractate Bikkurim – —the last tractate in all of Seder Zeraim!

 

 

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