You shall bring the first fruits of your land to the house of God.
(Exodus 34, 26)
רֵאשִׁית בִּכּוּרֵי אַדְמָתְךָ תָּבִיא בֵּית ה’ אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ
And when you come to the land, which God has given you, and it shall be yours and you shall dwell there. And you should take the first fruits of all the fruit of the ground, which you shall bring from your land, which God has given you, and you shall put it into a basket. And you shall come to the place in which God chooses to dwell. And you shall come to the priest who will be in those days, and you shall say to him: “I have said to God today, that I have come to the land which God has promised my ancestors to give to us […] I have brought the first fruits of the land that God has given me” […] And you shall rejoice in all the good that God has given to you and your household. You, the Levite, and the convert that is in your midst.
(Deuteronomy 26, from verses 1-11)
וְהָיָה כִּי תָבוֹא אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר ה’ אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ נַחֲלָה, וִירִשְׁתָּהּ וְיָשַׁבְתָּ בָּהּ. וְלָקַחְתָּ מֵרֵאשִׁית כָּל-פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר תָּבִיא מֵאַרְצְךָ אֲשֶׁר ה’ אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ, וְשַׂמְתָּ בַטֶּנֶא. וְהָלַכְתָּ אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר ה’ אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ לְשַׁכֵּן שְׁמוֹ שָׁם. וּבָאתָ אֶל הַכֹּהֵן אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם וְאָמַרְתָּ אֵלָיו: “הִגַּדְתִּי הַיּוֹם לַה’ אֱלֹהֶיךָ, כִּי-בָאתִי אֶל-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע ה’ לַאֲבֹתֵינוּ לָתֶת לָנו […] הִנֵּה הֵבֵאתִי אֶת-רֵאשִׁית פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר-נָתַתָּה לִּי, ה’; […] וְשָׂמַחְתָּ בְכָל הַטּוֹב אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לְךָ ה’ אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ וּלְבֵיתֶךָ. אַתָּה, וְהַלֵּוִי, וְהַגֵּר, אֲשֶׁר בְּקִרְבֶּךָ.
Foundations for Planning
- How are symbols used in celebrations and holidays?
- How do Jewish practices reflect Jewish values?
- How do Jewish rituals and practices enrich the way I experience my life and the world?
Content Questions Related to the Essential Questions
- Why is it important to be grateful for the good things that happen to us?
- In what ways can we express gratitude?
- Why is it significant when someone thanks us for something that we have done?
- What is the significance of bringing bikurim?
Background for Teacher
One of the commandments mentioned in the Torah in the context of Shavuot is that of bikurim – the first fruits. The word “bikurim” come from the same source as the word “bechor” – first; and bikurim are the first fruits of the year...
One of the commandments mentioned in the Torah in the context of Shavuot is that of bikurim – the first fruits. The word “bikurim” come from the same source as the word “bechor” – first; and bikurim are the first fruits of the year from the seven species growing in the land of Israel.
Bikurim were brought to the priests in the Temple as an offering to God, a symbol of appreciation for the good that God has given us and for bringing us to the land of Israel.
The fruits were customarily placed in a basket. Every person who brought bikurim was required, upon meeting the priest, to briefly recite the story of the people of Israel, from slavery to the exodus from Egypt up until the arrival in the land of Israel.
In other words, each person was expected to provide a background for the gratitude they feel, and to talk about the abundance that exists in their lives.
Moreover, the commandment tell us to rejoice in all of this goodness, and to say “thank you” for it.
- Each student should think of a time in their lives when they thanked someone or someone thanked them, and fill in the following details:
I said thank you: Who did I thank? For what? Why did I feel the need to say thank you? How did I feel when I said thank you? How did I say thank you?
Someone thanked me: Who thanked me? For what? How did they thank me? How did I feel when they thanked me?
This template can be used for filling in answers. The students can then share their stories in small groups. Summarize, saying that we all say “thank you” for a variety of things in many different ways, but that now we will learn about a special way of saying “thank you,” according to Jewish tradition.
- In pairs or in a circle, each student should thank the person sitting beside them for something. (Give the students some time to think about this, or to write down their thoughts. You can also give examples of things for which they can say “thank you”: helping someone in class, a gift, listening to someone’s story, believing in someone, etc.)
Click here to view our consolidated list of suggested interactive pedagogies for classroom discussion.
- Talk about what farmers go through prior to bringing the first fruits: Plowing, seeding, waiting for the rain to water the crops, treating against harmful pests, waiting 6 months to a year before seeing the fruit. What complications might arise in each stage? With this in mind, explain the mitzvah of bringing bikurim.
- What is significant and symbolic about bringing the first fruits, specifically? Why are we especially grateful for them?
- Why do we bring the first fruits from the seven species? How does this connect to the text recited when bringing bikurim?
- Do you think that bikurim are a good way of expressing gratitiude for a successful harvest? Why?
- Suggest an alternative way that you think might be appropriate for expressing gratitude for a successful harvest.
- What are some other ways of expressing gratitude that are non-verbal? Give an example of a time you thanked someone without saying the words “thank you”.
- The bikurim ritual delineates in detail those things for which we should say “thank you”. Why is detailing important? Consider examples from life: When we say “thank you”, why is it important to give details, both for the person thanking and the person being thanked?
- Do you prefer thanking or being thanked? Why?
- Can you force someone to say “thank you”, or does a real “thank you” have to be spontaneous and come from a person who is feeling thankful? Are there any benefits to an obligatory “thank you”?
- To emphasize that bikurim are a way of saying “thank you” for the first fruits, consider something that happened to you / you did for the first time and for which you would like to say “thank you”. Make or draw something that symbolically says “thank you for the new beginning”, and explain why this symbol is an expression of gratitude.
- Ask the students to consider the good things in their lives for which they are grateful. They should then write three things for which they are personally thankful in their lives, and three things for which they think all people might want to express gratitude. They can then share what they wrote with the class and the teacher will write the answers on the board. As a class, you can consider which things the students agreed upon, and which they did not; and then try to agree on 3-4 things about which everyone could and should express gratitude.
- Listen to Uzi Hitman’s song “Thank you” (you can find it translated and transliterated here). Give the students a sheet of paper with a list of things for which Uzi Hitman is thankful, and have the students mark on their sheet the things for which they are also grateful.
- Show the students this slide show (Hebrew) of the seven species from which bikurim are brought. Afterwards, have every student draw or write down the name of an additional fruit from which they would take bikurim, along with an explanation: Why did they choose this fruit, and what is the connection between this fruit and the idea of bringing bikurim on Shavuot?
- Teach prayers and blessings that focus on gratitude; for example, Modeh Ani and Birchot Hanehenin.