Rebbe Menachem Zembah Hy”D wrote in the name of the Ari Hakodesh that the mitzvah of Bikkurim is a rectification of the sin of the Meraglim. An allusion to this is from the first Mishna in the third perek of Bikkurim that explains the process of selecting the first fruits that one must bring to the Bais Hamikdash. The first-ripe figs, pomegranates, and grapes must be tied with a reed to indicate that they have been selected. Why did the Mishna select these three particular fruits? He answers that these are identical to the fruits that the Torah enumerates which the Meraglim took back to the camp of Am Yisrael with which they spoke Lashon Harah on Eretz Yisrael (Bamidbar 13,23 Rashi). This exacting parallel of fruits conveys that Bikkurim is a tikkun to the Meraglim’s chait. How does Bikkurim correct the shortcomings of the Meraglim?
The Zohar Hakadosh explains that the Meraglim had a driving self-interest which motivated them to talk bad about Eretz Yisrael. They saw with ruach hakodesh that when Yisrael enters Eretz Yisrael they would lose their positions of prestige and others would replace them. Their Lashon Harah about Eretz Yisrael came about because they felt an entitlement to keep their jobs even in Eretz Yisrael. They forgot that Hashem gave them their position in the first place and therefore He can take it away from them when and wherever He sees fit (see first Rashi in Chumash).
This reminds me of the story of the Chiloni Yid who was told many times that working on Shabbos will not pay, for eventually, he will lose all the money that he earned. The Chiloni thought he could outsmart Hashem and took out five different insurance policies from different companies in order to secure his fortune. “Now, tell me how Hashem can naturally take my money away from me?!” he exclaimed. His friend told him that Hashem might not be able to naturally take his money away from him but He can naturally take him away from his money! For that, there is no insurance.
Bikkurim are the opposite of the shortcoming of the Meraglim. Bikkurim is solely a mitzvah of Hakaras Hatov to Hashem (Devarim 26,3 Rashi). The individual who brings his first fruits to Yerushalayim is well aware that his success is Hashem’s miracle. One would think that obligating the owner to wait, to control himself and refrain from eating his prized fruits, is asking the impossible. Yet this is expected from every Yid in this scenario. He must overcome his feelings of entitlement, of feeling he deserves to eat from them right now. The power to control his deep desire stems from the realization that in truth Hashem does everything from beginning to end, giving man room only to possess the power of yiras shmayim to choose good over evil. The person who brings the Bikkurim demonstrates that he does not possess the license nor the right to demand those first fruits. Rather, he is driven by deep feelings of Hakaras HaTov to Hashem for making this special gift of kindness available in his own vineyard and orchard.
With this understanding we find Bikkurim being a tikkun for the Meraglim. The Spies felt entitlement for their positions which is in contrast to Bikkurim that teaches humility, gratitude, and service to Hashem who is the Adon Olam, and that all existence belongs to and is sustained by Him alone.
With this, we can explain the Sifri on the first passuk of the parsha that in the merit of Bikkurim you will enter the land of Eretz Yisrael. But they did not yet enter in order to fulfill the mitzvah of Bikkurim? According to our explanation, it means that if you will accept this mitzvah of Bikkurim upon yourselves then you will correct the sin of the Meraglim which penalized Am Yisrael from entering the land.
The proper mindset and posture with which one must enter Rosh Hashanah is that of realizing that nothing is owed to him even though he thinks that he has accomplished and risen in spirituality. One has to feel that he is a poor needy person who begs his benefactor for sustenance and life itself. This concept is reinforced by Rabbe Yitzchak (Rosh Hashanah 16b) who states that every year that at its beginning there is poverty, it will become enriched at its end. Both Rashi and Tosfos explain that the poverty at the start of the year is referring to people who daven in the form of supplication with a broken heart. This triggers that the mercy of Hashem will be bestowed on them. A poor person with a broken heart and spirit doesn’t feel entitled and deserving. The word תחנונים supplication is from the root word חן and חנם which means free and undeserving. The Vilna Gaon brings the passuk (Mishlei 18,23) תחנונים ידבר רש that during tefillah one should view himself as a poor person. During the Ten Days of Teshuvah we are asked to call out to Hashem because He is close (Yehsaya 55,6) קראוהו בהיותו קרוב and another passuk says (Tehillim 34 19) קרוב ה’ לנשברי לב that Hashem is close to the brokenhearted. Therefore on Rosh Hashanah which is the day one of this special closeness with Hashem, one must have a true broken heart when he approaches Hashem with supplications. If this condition is fulfilled then the Torah promises that at the end of the year one will be enriched both in spirit and physical well- being.
The shofar mirrors this idea by first beginning with a sound of tekiah which symbolizes the call to one who feels complete and in good shape which is a misconception. The second and third callings of the shofar שברים תרועה which are broken sounds are to bring about in the person a broken heart by realizing how distant he has become from Hashem because of his spiritual shortcomings. As a tzaddik once said, there is no greater shelaimus than a broken heart. Only then we blow another tekiah symbolizing the shelaimus that follows the broken heart.
That is why the acronym of these three fruits mentioned in the Torah by the Meraglim and Bikkurim תאנה רמון ענבים spell תרע hinting to Rosh Hashanah the day called יום תרועה. The passuk says (Tehillim 2,9) תרעם בשבט ברזל to shatter to pieces. The shofar, which breaks one’s heart, is in order to achieve teshuvah, for Hashem is close to the brokenhearted. So too, Bikkurim is tantamount to the destiny station of the shofar which is to feel broken over one’s incomplete state of dedication and devotion to Hashem, compared to all the chesed that He bestows upon him incessantly.
It is interesting to note that the word לב is gematriah 32. When the heart is broken one has the word היא 16 half of the whole heart. The Ari Hakadosh writes that the והיא שעמדה לאבותינו ולנו that we say in the Haggadah, the word היא is referring to the Shechinah. Why? We can say because היא is the result of a broken לב. The passuk says אני אשכון את דכא I will dwell by the downtrodden. The Shechinah dwells in the broken heart and therefore merits חן from Hashem. If one really spends time being grateful for everything that Hashem does for him, he will not be able to keep pace with the showering of Hashem’s non-stop chesed and therefore he will feel like a poor person who has nothing when beseeching Hashem with requests for good.
And now it is time to present the etymological insight as part of the equation. If one feels he deserves then he de-serves. A prefix of “de” before a word introduces a removal or negative such as we find in the words dehumidifier, demerit etc. Therefore if one feels he deserves reward from Hashem then he is removing his full service from Him. Without full Hakaras Hatov one can be led to feel that Hashem is indebted to him for his endeavors and not vice versa. Yet the passuk states (Tehillim 62,33) ולך אדנ’ חסד כי אתה תשלם איש כמעשהו Hashem displays chesed by rewarding each person according to his deed. The question that immediately arises is can reward be called chesed to the person that receives payment for his endeavors? The answer is that no one can do anything in any world with any existence without the constant sustainment of Hashem. The chesed of Hashem towards Man is that Hashem deems His own actions as Your actions כמעשהו as if it was considered your deed even though in the absolute truth it is not. This gift of incredible “consideration” is nevertheless the אמת according to Hashem as hinted in the gematriah of כמעשהו which is אמת.
There are two words, one in Lashon Hakodesh and one in Yiddish, that sound almost alike. Efes in Lashon Hakodesh means zero and Epis in Yiddish means something of substance. The message is the same as we have been saying throughout this mamar that when one feels he’s undeserving from Hashem and He owes him nothing, then he merits something substantial for his endeavors. Let us come to Hashem on this Rosh Hashana with Efes and thereby merit a year of Epis of substantial ruach and growth towards Hashem. The pronunciation difference between the two which separates them is only a dot in the pay letter of Epis. It doesn’t take much to become an Epis if you are willing to take out the time to think just a little about Hashem’s constant tovos. The Pay day will be well worth that time spent.