Nasso

Bamidbar 5:9-10
ט  וְכָל-תְּרוּמָה לְכָל-קָדְשֵׁי בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר-יַקְרִיבוּ לַכֹּהֵן–לוֹ יִהְיֶה. 9 And every heave-offering of all the holy things of the children of Israel, which they present unto the priest, shall be his.
י  וְאִישׁ אֶת-קֳדָשָׁיו לוֹ יִהְיוּ אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִתֵּן לַכֹּהֵן לוֹ יִהְיֶה. 10 And every man’s hallowed things shall be his: whatsoever any man giveth the priest, it shall be his.
Rashi explains on passuk that the “terumah” being referred to are Bikkurim – the first fruits of the harvest of the Seven Species, which must be given to the Kohen.
Rav Moshe Feinstein ztl points out, that from the Kohen’s perspective, it’s irrelevant whether the fruits he receives are the first of the harvest, or otherwise. The special significance of these fruits is appreciated only by the owner, who toiled by planting the tree, nurturing it, and ultimately watching it produce fruits. To the Kohen, one pomegranate is the same as another pomegranate.
Nevetheless, the Torah requires the owner to specifically give the first fruits to the Kohen, and even if other fruits are given – and the Kohen suffers no loss – it is still considered stealing. The lesson, is that the essence of stealing is not just about harming another person; it is the misappropriation of an item which is not rightfully yours. Only that which Hashem has rightfully bestowed upon us may be utilized and enjoyed.

Bikkurim are of course a major part of Shavuot, since Shavuot was the first day that one could bring Bikkurim to the Beit HaMikdash.
I would like to try to connect the lessons of Bikkurim and stealing, to some ideas, found in Rav Nebenzahl’s sefer, on the topic of why we read Megillat Ruth on Shavuot:
One reason is that just as we took upon ourselves all of Torah and mitzvot at Har Sinai, so too Ruth took upon herself ol malchut shamayim when she converted.
Another reason is that Ruth exemplified giving of herself entirely, both to her mother-in-law, Naomi, and to Hashem. In order to fulfill the expectation of being a “mamlechet kohanim v’goy kadosh” we have to go ‘all-in’. Serving Hashem, often means sacrificing our time, inclinations and desires. Along these lines of sacrificing of ourselves, Ruth the Moabite departs from the ways of her Moab ancestors, and becomes a shining example of the middah of chessed. The nation of Moav (along with Amon), who refused to offer bread and water to Bnei Yisrael in the desert, and as a result is never allowed entry to Klal Yisrael (see Devarim 23:4-5), represents the utter lack of chessed. With Ruth’s amazing demonstration of chessed, she is the tikkun of Moav. As Boaz says (Ruth 3:10):
הֵיטַבְתְּ חַסְדֵּךְ הָאַחֲרוֹן מִן הָרִאשׁוֹן

I would like to humbly suggest, that based on the definition of stealing, above from Bikkurim, it seems that chessed and stealing are polar opposites of one another (not only because one is nice and one is not nice). Stealing is gaining pleasure from something that isn’t yours, which belongs to someone else; Chessed is taking what IS rightfully yours and voluntarily giving it to someone else. One is taking something you don’t own, and the other is giving something you do own.

Ruth gave of herself to her grieving mother-in-law (chessed), and Ruth gave of herself to find Hashem (kabalas ol malchus shamayim) — both important lessons for zman matan torateinu.

Finally, another aspect of becoming a mamlechet kohanim v’goy kadosh, is cleaving to role models who exemplify righteousness and proper values, which brings us to another Moab ancestor: Lot was the incestuous grandfather of Moav (the guy), and an ancestor of Ruth. Lot left the tent of Avraham Avinu to live in the most grotesque city of its time, in Sedom. He left the greatest role model of chessed to chase wealth (see B’reishit 13:10, describing Sedom’s saturated fields) and to be with the licentious people of Sedom. Ruth, by contrast, was royalty – a descendant of Eglon and Balak. She left luxury so that she could cleave to Naomi, because she realized that being with Naomi and learning from her was (a) the right thing to do, and (b) far more valuable than material wealth.

By clinging to special individuals with character traits befitting a mamlechet kohanim, we equip ourselves to strive for righteousness, and ensure that those values get passed to the next generation.

In sum, Bikkurim teaches the importance of appropriating ownership properly; Ruth teaches the importance of chessed, sacrificing ourselves and our material possessions to benefit others, and the middos necessary to be worthy of receiving the Torah.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>