Notifications
Sign Up Sign In
Q&A

When bringing first fruits, why do we say to the priest "your God" rather than "our God"?

+3
−0

When bringing first fruits we are commanded to say the following to the priest:

וּבָאתָ֙ אֶל־הַכֹּהֵ֔ן אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִהְיֶ֖ה בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֑ם וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֵלָ֗יו הִגַּ֤דְתִּי הַיּוֹם֙ לַיהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ כִּי־בָ֙אתִי֙ אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר נִשְׁבַּ֧ע יְהוָ֛ה לַאֲבֹתֵ֖ינוּ לָ֥תֶת לָֽנוּ׃

You shall go to the priest in charge at that time and say to him, “I acknowledge this day before the LORD your God that I have entered the land that the LORD swore to our fathers to assign us.” (D'varim 26:3)

My question is about the part I've put in bold. Why does the person who is bringing the offering say "before Hashem your God" rather than "our God"? The speaker acknowledges the personal connection later in the sentence ("swore to our fathers to assign us"), so it's not the "exclusive 'you'" of the rasha in the haggadah (l'havdil).

I noticed this during study today and none of the commentaries we had to hand addressed it (Rashi and a variety of chumashim). Later I found a S'forno on Sefaria that seems to say that the speaker is reminding the priest that he, too, answers to someone else -- the "your" is a reminder that the priest isn't the top of the chain. But that seems a little weak, because the participants are standing in the temple when this is happening and that ought to provide ample reminders of Whom they're serving. But I'm relying on the English for the S'forno and the translator notes some uncertainty, so maybe the answer is there if only my Hebrew were better.

This is commanded text, not something the speaker is saying in the moment. We can presume that the words here are exactly the words that God wants to hear. Why does the torah command the speaker to say "your" here?

Why should this post be closed?

0 comments

1 answer

+2
−0

Rav Moshe Shternbuch shlita in his sefer Ta'am Ve'Daas ad. loc. asks your question.

He suggests that by being commanded to say "your G-d" and not "my G-d", it's meant to teach us the proper decorum when approaching and addressing the Kohanim. The Kohanim are unique in the Jewish nation in that they serve Hashem in a very special and close way. Their service in the Temple makes them have a more intimate relationship with Hashem, and Hashem grants them unique Divine oversight. The way Hashem acts towards the Kohanim is different than how He acts towards the rest of the nation.

As such, by saying "Hashem your G-d", the Yisrael is in a sense humbling themselves before the Kohen, lowering their own stature. Hashem is "more" the Kohen's G-d in the sense that he has a special relationship with Him.

The goal is that if a person brings their first fruits to the Temple, and goes with this humility towards the Kohen, acknowledging his stature, then hopefully the bringer will act similarly towards Hashem Himself. They'll realize His grandeur, and serve Him with humility.

Although, I'm wondering, this explanation only works for the Yisraelim. Kohanim are also commanded in Bikkurim, so according to this, I don't know why they say "your G-d" to the Kohen. Maybe there's just a standard text for everyone, and it goes according to the majority (my suggestion).

See also Da'as Torah Biurim ad. loc. by Rav Yerucham Levovitz, who notes the unique phraseology here, and says that Rashi's comment here is based on it, but he doesn't justify why it's here.

In truth, this question is already asked by the Zohar II parshas Yisro p. 79b:

וּבְאָת אֶל הַכֹּהֵן אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם וְאָמַרְתָּ אֵלָיו הִגַּדְתִּי הַיּוֹם לַיְיָ' אֱלהֶיךָ, וְהָא אִינּוּן בְּאַרְעָא שַׁרְיָין, מַאי טַעֲמָא אֱלֹהֶיךָ, וְלֹא אֱלהֵינוּ. אֶלָּא אִינּוּן בַּעְיָין לְאַחֲזָאָה וּלְאוֹדָאָה, דִּבְגִינֵי דְּחֶסֶד עִלָּאָה, זָכָאן לְכָל הַאי, וְשַׁרְיָין בְּאַרְעָא, וְעָאֲלָן לְהַהִיא אַרְעָא, וְעָבִיד עִמְּהוֹן כָּל אִינּוּן טָבָאן, וּבְגִינֵי כַּךְ, הֲווֹ אַמְרִי מִלִּין אִלֵּין לַכֹּהֵן, (ולא לבר נש אחרא) דִּכְתִּיב הִגַּדְתִּי הַיּוֹם לַיְיָ' אֱלהֶיךָ, (והכי הוא ודאי) מִשּׁוּם דְּאָתֵי מִסִּטְרָא דְּחֶסֶד.‏

Translated to Hebrew from here:

וּבָאתָ אֶל הַכֹּהֵן אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם וְאָמַרְתָּ אֵלָיו הִגַּדְתִּי הַיּוֹם לַה' אֱלֹהֶיךְ, וַהֲרֵי הֵם בָּאָרֶץ שׁוֹרִים. מָה הַטַּעַם אֱלֹהֶיךְ וְלֹא אֱלֹהֵינוּ? אֶלָּא הֵם רָצוּ לְהַרְאוֹת וּלְהוֹדוֹת שֶׁבִּגְלַל הַחֶסֶד הָעֶלְיוֹן זָכוּ לְכָל זֶה וְשָׁרוּ בָאָרֶץ וְנִכְנָסִים לְאוֹתָהּ אֶרֶץ וְעָשָׂה עִמָּהֶם כָּל אוֹתָן טוֹבוֹת, וּמִשּׁוּם כָּךְ הָיוּ אוֹמְרִים דְּבָרִים אֵלֶּה לַכֹּהֵן {{ולא לאדם אחר}}, שֶׁכָּתוּב הִגַּדְתִּי הַיּוֹם לַה' אֱלֹהֶיךְ, {{וכך הוא ודאי}} מִשּׁוּם שֶׁבָּא מִצַּד הַחֶסֶד.‏

From what I gather it means, the Zohar answers that by saying "your G-d", it's an acknowledgement that the Jewish people are worthy of the land of Israel, and the fruits that come from it, solely due to the righteous1. The Kohen is presumed to be righteous, so by saying to him "your G-d" and not "my G-d", the bringer is making it known that they are aware of what enabled them to bring these fruits in the first place.


1 It literally says הַחֶסֶד הָעֶלְיוֹן. I saw in a recent commentary on the Zohar called Zohar HaBahir an explanation that this is referring to the righteous. I'm not so well-versed in the Zohar terminology, so I don't know if this is the explanation, or one of many.

0 comments

Sign up to answer this question »

Like any library, this site offers tons of great information, but does not offer personalized, professional advice, and does not take the place of seeking such advice from your rabbi.

This site is part of the Codidact network. We have other sites too — take a look!

You can also join us in chat!

Want to advertise this site? Use our templates!