The Importance of Knowing Where We Came From

Dedicated in Honor of the Midreshet Devora Class of 2010-2011


In Parshat Ki Tavo (Devarim 26:5-8) we find the words that are recited by the person bringing Bikkurim, the first of all of the fruits of the seven species of Israel. These psukim may be familiar to you, as we recite these same words each year on Pesach: “…Arami oved avi…”, “…The Aramite destroyed my forefather…”.


“The Aramite (Lavan, Yaakov’s father-in-law) destroyed my forefather (Yaakov), then he descended to Egypt and sojourned there with a tiny community; and there he became a great people, powerful and numerous. The Egyptians treated us badly and oppressed us and they imposed hard labor upon us. We prayed to the God of our forefathers and God accepted our prayer and perceived our oppression and our labor and the pressure upon us. And God took us out of Egypt with a powerful hand and with an extended arm and with great display and with signs and with wonders”.


After these verses that we are so familiar with, the person bringing the Bikkurim recites two more sentences (26:9-10):


“And He brought us to this place (Rashi: The Bet HaMikdash) and He gave us this Land (the entire Land of Israel), a land flowing with milk and honey. And now, see! I have brought the first of the fruits of the soil that you, God have given me”.


Why does the person bringing the Bikkurim have to go through an entire history lesson? Why can’t he just say something like “Here are my first fruits which I was blessed to grow in the Land of Israel?”


It is important for us to recognize what we have been through and how far we have come. In Modern Israel today, we can’t celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day without celebrating Yom Hashoa (Holocaust Memorial Day) and Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day for the fallen soldiers). Without knowing the history of how we were promised the Land, how we lost the land, how we were persecuted and how we finally fought and won the land back with God’s help, there is nothing to celebrate.


The law of Bikkurim is only observed in Israel- we see this clearly in the first two psukim in the parsha: “When it happens that you come to the Land that HaShem your God is giving you as territory and you inherit it and settle it. You are to take of the first of the fruits of the soil.” Agriculture has much more meaning in the Land of Israel, we are tied to the land. If you have orchards anywhere else in the world you may be happy and rejoice when your first fruits grow, but it isn’t a mitzvah to give them away and recite the history of the Jewish people!


Mitzvot HaTluyot BaAretz are mitzvoth that can only be performed in Israel. These mitzvoth prove that the best place to observe the Torah, the place where the most mitzvoth can be performed until this day (even though we don’t have the Beit Hamikdash and therefore can’t perform all of the mitzvoth) is in the Land of Israel.


This week, we look forward to welcoming the Midreshet Devora class of 2010-2011. Our students will learn the history of the Land of Israel in classes such as “The Biblical Importance of the Land of Israel”, “Religious Zionism”, “TaNaCh Tiyulim” and “The Jerusalem Experience.” The students will grow to understand the history of the Jewish people in The Land of Israel from Biblical days until the present. Through their studies, the young women will come to see why the Land of Israel must not be taken for granted.