The Torah portion Savo opens with the commandment of Bikkurim, the First Fruit offering that was brought in a basket called a ten and given to a kohen in the Beis HaMikdash. As described in the Mishnah,
the basket was a simple one, made of peeled willow twigs. Both the basket and the First Fruits were given to the kohen.
Bikkurim is indicative of the finest and best; they were the first and choicest fruits, to be brought specifically from the "seven varieties for which Eretz Yisrael is lauded." Bikkurim were to be brought only to the Beis HaMikdash, and the mitzvah applied only in Eretz Yisrael.
Notwithstanding these rigorous laws, the First Fruits were brought in a basket which by its nature limited the amount.
How is it that the first and best fruits of Eretz Yisrael were to be limited by their container, and why was the basket of such simple quality?
In a spiritual sense, Bikkurim alludes to the Jewish people in general, and particularly to their souls as found with their source above - a level where spirituality precedes all else.
Although the soul above is on such a high plane, it must descend and clothe itself within the "vessel" of a body which conceals and limits its bond with G-d.
While this descent is indeed great, it serves a vital purpose: Through its descent, the soul is able to attain a level of spirituality that it could not attain otherwise. For this descent reveals the soul's choicest aspect - how it is truly one, as it were, with G-d Himself.
Just as this is so regarding the soul's descent, so too with regard to the Jews' service in this world: The ultimate purpose of our spiritual service is achieved not so much through the attainment of love and fear of G-d, as by the performance of practical good deeds.
By performing mitzvos that involve even the lowest parts of the human organism, a person causes his entire body to become a fitting receptacle for the sanctity of his soul. This in turn elevates the soul to its loftiest state.
The reason for this is similar to the explanation as to why G-d created different levels in the spiritual worlds and the physical one.
The Alter Rebbe explains that the purpose of the chain-like downward succession of worlds is not for the sake of the higher worlds. Rather, the purpose is this lowest world. By having this world transformed into a dwelling place for G-d's essence, a tremendous elevation is achieved in the higher spiritual worlds as well.
The same is true with regard to the soul: It is specifically through its descent within the body that it is able to transform this world into a dwelling place for G-d. Within the world itself, this is achieved by elevating even its lowest aspects through the performance of practical mitzvos.
By dint of this service, the soul attains a level of spirituality and closeness to G-d that is even greater than it enjoyed prior to its descent- it achieves the level of spiritual Bikkurim by vesting itself in the simplest of vessels, the body.
The same is true with regard to the performance of the mitzvah of Bikkurim: The ultimate elevation of the First Fruits - accomplished by bringing them to the Beis HaMikdash - is reflected in the fact that they are brought and given together with a simple vessel of willow twigs.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXIX, pp. 150-152
- (Back to text) Bikkurim 3:8.
- (Back to text) Devarim 26:2 and commentaries of Rashi, Seforno, et al. See also Menachos 84b; Sifri beginning of this Torah portion; Yerushalmi, Bikkurim 1:3.
- (Back to text) Rambam, Hilchos Bikkurim 2:3.
- (Back to text) Ibid., 2:2.
- (Back to text) Ibid., 2:1.
- (Back to text) Zohar, Vol. III, p. 253a. See also Bereishis Rabbah beginning of ch. 46; Zohar, Vol. II, p. 121a.
- (Back to text) Or HaTorah, Savo 1033ff., 1039ff.
- (Back to text) See Bereishis Rabbah 1:4.
- (Back to text) See Likkutei Torah, Bamidbar, p. 2a ff.; Re'eh 25a, 27a ff.
- (Back to text) See Hemshech 5666 p. 491ff., p. 502ff.
- (Back to text) See Tanya, conclusion of ch. 40.
- (Back to text) See Igros Kodesh, Rebbe Rayatz, Vol. III, p. 305; Iggeres HaKodesh, conclusion of Epistle 20.
- (Back to text) Tanya ch. 36.
- (Back to text) See Sefer HaMaamarim 5643, p. 35ff.
In the Torah portion Savo, we are told to "walk in His paths."
The Rambam regards this exhortation as a positive command,
explaining it to mean that "we are to emulate the A-mighty to the greatest extent possible; just as G-d is deemed gracious, compassionate and benevolent, so we are to be gracious, compassionate and benevolent."
One of the Rambam's principles regarding the enumeration of commandments is that an all-encompassing command such as "You shall observe My statutes," or "You shall be holy," is not counted as one of the 613 mitzvos, inasmuch as they embrace the entire Torah.
Accordingly, it would seem that to "walk in His paths" should not be counted as a positive command, for "emulating the A-mighty to the greatest extent possible" is germane to all mitzvos.
Why does the Rambam count this as one of the 613 commandments?
We must conclude that "walking in His paths" involves something not found in any of the other commandments, for which reason it is counted as a distinct command.
What is the unique aspect of this mitzvah?
The uniqueness of this command lies in that we are told to "walk in His paths." It is possible for a person to perform a mitzvah and to remain stationary - the person finds himself afterwards in the same state he was in before. "You shall walk...." implies that performing the mitzvah transforms the performer into an individual in motion, leaving his previous station and marching on to a higher spiritual rank.
The Jew is able to accomplish this when he realizes that he is going in "His paths," i.e., that he performs mitzvos because they are G-d's path and he desires to emulate G-d to the greatest extent possible. When a person performs mitzvos in this manner, he can be assured that rather than remaining spiritually immobile, he will be constantly "on the move."
While it is true that performing mitzvos in any manner elevates the performer, when they are not performed in a "walking" manner the effect on the person will remain concealed; "walking in His paths" reveals the spiritual refinement and elevation accomplished through the performance of mitzvos.
Moreover, when one "walks in His paths," the elevation achieved is limitless:
Chassidus explains the verse: "I shall cause you to be 'walkers' among those who are 'stationary'," as referring to the spiritual state of souls who perform Torah and mitzvos in this world, compared to souls and angels above. Although angels and souls above are constantly rising from level to level, they are considered "stationary," for all their degrees of refinement and elevation are of the same magnitude - each spiritual elevation is in some way comparable to their previous level. They are thus considered spiritually immobile, compared to the true infinity of G-dliness.
In contrast, the soul within a body, performing Torah and mitzvos with physical objects, is considered to be in motion, for performing mitzvos enables a Jew to rise in a way such that each new level is infinitely loftier than the previous one.
Yet all created beings are inherently finite. How can their service emulate the truly limitless Creator, thereby achieving a limitless elevation?
In order for mitzvos to possess this infinite capacity, it is necessary for the person performing them to be in touch with the essence of his soul at the time.
For the soul, being "truly a part of G-d above," is infinite. When a person draws down the infinite level of his soul's essence and connects it with the particular mitzvah he is performing, thus enhancing that mitzvah with the pure faith and self-sacrifice which emanate from the soul's essence, he will be able to draw down this infinite level within his finite service.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, pp. 1130-1134
- (Back to text) Devarim 28:9.
- (Back to text) Sefer HaMitzvos, Positive Command 8; Hilchos De'os 1:5 - based on Sotah 14a.
- (Back to text) Zechariah 3:7.
- (Back to text) Tanya, beginning of ch. 2.