והיה כי תבוא אל הארץ אשר ה' אלקיך נותן לך נחלה וירשתה וישבתה בה. ולקחת מראשית כל פרי האדמה וגו'.
“And it will be when you will come into the Land that Hashem your G-d is giving you as an inheritance, and you will inherit it and settle it. And you shall take from the first of every fruit of the earth…” (Devarim 26)
The Safri states that the word v’haya with which the verse begins means that it applies immediately. The commentators ask: “The mitzvah of bikurim (bringing the first fruit to the Bais Hamikdash) only took effect after the Jewish people finished conquering Eretz Yisroel and all tribes were settled in their respective territories, a process that took fourteen years. If so, why does the Safri say that the verse urges the people to perform this mitzvah immediately?”
The Safri also writes: “This mitzvah was given so that in its merit they should enter the Land.” This statement is even more difficult to understand. The mitzvah only applied in Eretz Yisroel, after the land was already conquered and properly settled. How do we understand the Safri’s statement?
In the selichos prayers, which are recited every morning before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we say that Hashem removes our “first, first” sins. If Hashem forgives our sins, then our first sins would automatically be included in His forgiveness. Why do we thank Hashem separately for that? Furthermore, why do we repeat the word “first” again?
It says in the Mishna (Avos 4:2): “One mitzvah leads to another and one transgression leads to another.” According to the Mishna, the first action that a person takes may decide where his future actions will lead him. A person who starts off with a mitzvah has a special merit to continue doing more and more mitzvos. On the other hand, someone who starts off with a transgression gets entangled in more and more transgressions. We see from this that everything depends on the person’s first action.
Hashem, our beloved Father, does us a tremendous kindness and enables us to start fresh again and again. He gives us a fresh start each morning anew, so that we shouldn’t get pulled along with the transgressions of the day before. Our holy sefarim teach us that a person should try very hard each morning that his first thought, word and action should be for the sake of Heaven. This will help him start his day off right and continue with a constant chain of mitzvos. What about the transgressions he committed yesterday? Hashem “removes the first, first sins.” Hashem erases the first transgression that started a chain of aveiros. When the person wakes up the next morning he has a clean slate; he can begin anew without any attachment to his previous actions.
This important message is conveyed through the verse. “And it will be when you will come into the Land,” it will be when the neshama will come down to this world. At that time you shall remember “that Hashem your G-d is giving you as an inheritance.” The word nachla (inheritance) spells the words noach lah – peace upon her. When Hashem returns the neshama each morning He gives her peace. If the person would stay connected to his actions of the day before he would never find peace from his yetzer hara, but Hashem in His great kindness cleanses the soul and returns her pure and holy. “And you will inherit it and settle it” - the soul returns to the body in the morning prepared for another day. At this time, the person should remember: “And you shall take from the first of every fruit of the earth!” Make sure that your first thought, word and action were taken for Hashem, and were performed with kedusha and purity.
We can now understand the Safri’s comments. This mitzvah must be performed immediately – as soon as a person opens his eyes he should fill his mind with pure thoughts of praise. His first words should be “Modeh ani,” thanking Hashem for returning his soul. His first action should be to wash his hands for the sake of purity, and then he will have a good start for a day full of mitzvos.
With this explanation our selichos prayer has new meaning. Hashem forgives our “first, first” sins. Each day Hashem once again erases our “first” sin, and then the next day He does this kindness again, just as we say in Tehillim (79:8): “Do not remember for us our first sins.” The sins that were our first actions should not be remembered, so that we shall receive a fresh start and a clean slate.
Every “first” is a time of renewal. Hashem renews us every morning, every week, every month and every year – especially every year. When the new year begins, Hashem gives us the ability to start fresh with holiness and purity, full of prayers and holy aspirations. By starting the year with mitzvos and good deeds we start a chain of mitzvos for the entire coming year.
But in order to utilize the gift of renewal on Rosh Hashanah, we must be prepared. This is the reason why we add extra prayers before Rosh Hashanah, beginning right after Shabbos, as we say: “After the day of rest we precede You first.” We begin to recite selichos after Shabbos because on Shabbos we merit menucha, inner peace. On Shabbos we find peace from the yetzer hara, and so we are able to take this peace with us into the coming week of selichos. We make sure to do the selichos first thing in the morning, to begin the day and the week right and have the added advantage to be able to continue doing mitzvos.
We can now understand the other statement of the Safri: “This mitzvah was given so that in its merit they should enter the Land.” The pure and holy soul descends to the land, to live an earthly existence. The soul faces the serious danger of being pulled towards physical aspirations and desires, ultimately damaging her beauty and holiness. But at the same time, earthliness and physicality have great potential, as we see in Bereishis Rabbah (5:8) where it says that the earth “desires to do the will of her Creator.” A person can harness his earthly side to help the soul fulfill its potential. When he does that, he transforms it from the “Land of Canaan” to “Land of Israel” and settles the soul in the Holy Land. The message of the Safri is clear: by performing the mitzvah of bikurim as defined above – by ensuring that our first thoughts, deeds and actions are for the sake of Heaven – we will merit that our soul will enter the Land of Israel and continue ascending to greater levels of holiness even while living in this world.
Hashem should help us, we should be able to prepare properly for the Days of Awe and everyone should merit a kesiva v’chasima tovah. Every person should be helped with whatever he needs and may this year finally be the year of the Geulah Sheleima, Amein.