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The first words of our parsha (Ki Tavo) read, “When you come to the land that the Lord your G-d bequeathed to you and you inherit it and settle in it” (Deut. 26:1). Rashi explains, “This comes to tell us that the Jews were not obligated to bring ‘bicurim’ until they totally conquered and divided the land.” ‘Bicurim’ are the “cream” of the crops grown in the holy Land; they are offerings brought from the seven crops that epitomize agriculture in the holy land; wheat, barley, grapes, dates, figs, olives, pomegranates, and olives. As soon as the farmer would see the first of any of these fruits in his fields, he would tie something around it, and when ripe, he would bring it to the Temple in Jerusalem. There, the priests would accept his gift and would have him read a brief declaration summarizing Jewish history, “My forefather served an Aramaic man and then went down to slavery in Egypt…G-d took us out with miracles…and brought us to this land of milk and honey” (verses 5 – 10). Essentially, the point of this commandment is to express Jewish gratitude and overwhelming joy at having arrived to the land of Israel as a people guided by the One above.

In a previous Torah portion (Shelach, Deut. 15:18), Rashi already told us that whenever the Torah uses the terminology, “When you come to the land,” it refers not only to arrival, but to conquering and division of the land. Since nonetheless our verse mentions both “coming to the land” and “conquering and division,” it must be referring to a different kind of “arrival,” one that might necessitate bringing ‘bicurim’ even before all the land was conquered and divided. For example, you might think that immediately upon entering the land and getting any kind of enjoyment from its fruits, you would have to bring ‘bicurim.’ Therefore, Rashi comments that even in our verse, the obligation to bring ‘bicurim’ occurs only after conquering and division. But, if so, then Rashi should have been more explicit. He should have explained that even though some people might achieve immediate benefit from the land, nevertheless the obligation doesn’t apply to them yet. Why does he suffice with the mere comment, ‘bicurim’ applies only after conquering and division of the land.’?

The explanation though, is as follows. The conquering and division of the land took place over a period of fourteen years. During that time, individuals and families of Jews conquered and took possession of parts of the Land, even as the conquest and division of the rest of Israel proceeded apace. That is, it didn’t all take place at once, but rather bit by bit. There was room to think that those individuals who did conquer and take possession should immediately begin to bring ‘bicurim’ to the Temple. If the mitzvah of ‘bicurim’ were a public mitzvah, incumbent on the entire Jewish people as a body, such as the commandment to appoint a king over themselves, then it would make sense to wait until the entire land was conquered and divided. But, here, ‘bicurim’ is a private commandment, incumbent upon every single individual Jew. Every Jewish farmer had to bring the first fruits of his fields to the Temple. Therefore, it might make sense for the Jews, as they gained a foothold on the Land, even before it was entirely conquered, to bring ‘bicurim.’ For that reason, Rashi tells us that “no,” the mitzvah of ‘bicurim’ was still dependent upon the entire Jewish people. Only after every Jew was settled on his parcel of the land of Israel was it obligatory to begin bringing ‘bicurim.’

And now we can understand the language of the verse, as well as Rashi’s explanation. If the verse read only, “When you come to the landŔ we might think that the individuals who already received their inheritance and parcel of land in Israel should immediately begin to bring ‘bicurim.’ Therefore, the verse continues, ‘and you inherit it and settle it.’ Only, explains Rashi, after inheritance and settlement does ‘bicurim’ apply. Only after every Jew is on his portion of the land do we begin to bring ‘bicurim’ to the Temple. It is not necessary for Rashi to add more explanation, because he is not explaining a “new” situation. He is merely re-asserting his previous statement, that ‘bicurim’ does not apply until the land is entirely conquered and settled, even though it is already in process.

However, one could very well ask if that’s the case, why should those who already received their inheritance and parcel of land not begin their obligation right away? After all, they gain the benefit and enjoyment of life in Israel, and why should they not also express it by bringing the first fruits to the Temple?

The answer is that all Jews are connected together. While one’s individual happiness might be great, because of what he managed to achieve with G-d’s help, his happiness will not be complete until every other Jew achieves his happiness as well. As long as even one Jew who did not receive his inheritance in the land, something was lacking in the fulfillment and happiness of every other Jew. ‘Bicurim’ express the gratefulness and happiness that comes with inheriting and settling the land, and as long as one Jew had not yet taken his place, the collective Jewish happiness was not complete. For that reason, we were not obligated to bring ‘bicurim’ until every Jewish individual and family took its place and inheritance in Israel.

Every year, we read parshat “Ki Tavo” close to the date of Chai (18) Ellul, when both the Ba’al Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe (founder of the Chabad movement) were born (forty-seven years apart). It’s safe to say, then that there is a connection between the date and the portion of Ki Tavo that goes beyond mere coincidence in time, and suggests a connection in content as well. It’s known that the message of the Ba’al Shem Tov, in a downtrodden and demoralized generation, was the “every Jew can serve G-d.” Even if he or she is uneducated and ignorant, a Jew is intrinsically close to the One above, and can serve Him from the heart. The message of the Alter Rebbe was, “This is how every Jew can serve G-d.” In writing the Tanya, the Alter Rebbe systematized the principles of the Zohar and kabala in such a way that every Jew could use them to get close to G-d. And in writing the “Shulchan Aruch Harav,” he gave reasons for the halacha, explaining each halacha rather than just stating the “do’s and don’ts.” In this way, he allowed for every Jew to find his and her place in the Torah and begin serving G-d.

The two messages are alluded in the verse, “When you come to the land…and inherit and settle it.” “When you come to the land” alludes to the Ba’al Shem Tov. His message that every Jew can serve G-d corresponds to one finding his place in the holy Land, where he can actualize his unique connection with G-d. And the words “inheritance and settlement” allude to the Alter Rebbe. Just as the land becomes the property of he who inherits and settles it, so a spiritual concept becomes internalized and “owned” by one who meditates upon it and incorporates it until it becomes “his.” The Alter Rebbe, with his writings, enabled every Jew to “inherit and settle” (internalize and actualize) the principles of the inner dimensions of the Torah, thus bringing him to a state of inheritance and actualization of the G-dly soul inside of him. And hopefully that will bring us to the era that every Jew will own a piece of the “land,” both physically and spiritually, bringing the final redemption and building of the Temple in Jerusalem.

From Likutei Sichot of the Lubavitcher Rebbe ztz’l, vol. 9, pp 52-61 Rabbi David Sterne, Jerusalem Connection in the Old City of Jerusalem