By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld
The Torah tells us in Devarim 26:1,2 that when you enter Eretz Yisroel you should bring the first ripened fruit as a gift to Hashem. This comes right after the parsha of mechiyas Amalek. The reason they are right next to each other is because a person knocks out the machshova of gaaveh by bringing bikurim where one might think that kochi ve’otzem yadi brought him all this wealth; nevertheless, he goes and takes the first fruit that is ripened and brings it up to Yerushalayim. That is pshat in the posuk terumas yadcha, which is referring to bikurim. By bringing bikurim we raise our hands up to show that we are not the cause of all the wealth, but it is rather Hashem who is the source of our blessings. This counteracts the koach of Amalek, which is the gematria of “Ram-” gaava. Moshe lifted his hands when Klal Yisroel started winning because he got them to understand that it is not their own hands fighting a war, but rather Hashem making them win.
What happens in a year of Shmitta, where all the fruits are hefker; do we still have the mitzvah of bikurim? Rashi in Shmos 23:19 says that even during shmitta one has to bring bikurim. The Maharal says this must be a mistake, since it is not possible to say “the fruits you gave me.” The Ohr Hachaim also says that bikurim applies only during the six non-shmitta years.
The Minchas Chinuch argues with the position of the Ohr Hachaim and says that from both Rashi and the Rambam it is mashma that a person is chayev to bring bikurim even during shmitta. The Shailos Utshuvos Avnei Neizer says that one is pattur from bikurim during shmitta. The Maharam Shik in Mitzvah 91 wants to explain the machlokes whether or not one is required to bring bikurim during shmitta based on another machlokes between the Bais Yosef and the Maharit. Are the fruits of shmitta automatically hefker, or is it part of the mitzvah that the owner is mafkir it? The Bais Yosef holds that the fruits of shmitta belong to the owner, he just has a requirement to be mafkir it. Based on this shitta, one could bring bikurim and say thanks for the fruits that were given to me, whereas according to the Maharit, where the shmitta fruit are automatically hefker, then there would be no possibility of being required to bring bikurim from shmitta fruit.
Even according to the Bais Yosef one has to be mafkir the fruit. How can a person bring bikurim and say the “fruits you gave me” if he has to be mafkir it? This question is asked by the Chemdas Yisroel in kuntres Ner Mitzvah 30:1. He answers that the mitzvah to be mafkir the fruit is only once it is fully ripe and ready to be eaten, but the mitzvah of bikurim applies as soon as the first fruit turns ripe – he wraps a red thread on the fruit – so this takes place before he can be mafkir, so the mitzvah of bikurim is applicable earlier.
The Sefer Emunas Yisroel brings two more answers to the above question of the Chemdas Yisroel. One is based on the Minchas Chinuch mitzvah 83 that says according to the Rambam if a woman owns a field she would not have to be mafkir her field. In this case, a woman who is mechuyav in bikurim would have to bring it in the year of shmitta as well. Another tirutz, also based on the same Minchas Chinuch mentioned above, says that a field owned by ketanim who are in essence under Bar Mitzvah, are not required to be mafkir the field during Shmitta and according to that one man de’amar in Yerushalmi Terumos 1:1 a katan should bring bikurim.
We see from here how important it is to acknowledge that everything is from Hashem and to have Emunah and Bitachon!
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