September 22nd, 2016

Parshat Ki Tavo begins with the instruction to bring first fruits to Jerusalem, a mitzva called ‘Bikkurim’. Moshe tells the nation that Bikkurim must be motivated by joy. According to the Talmud this means Bikkurim has to be brought during the ‘joy’ season, between Shavuot and Sukkot, but it seems there is much more to the ‘joy’ requirement of Bikkurim than just timing.

Meanwhile, there are many other mentions of ‘simcha’ in Devarim that do not relate to a specific time. In addition to which there is the strange declaration accompanying the giving of Bikkurim that includes a preamble about Lavan, and the Exodus from Egypt. What do these historical episodes have to do with Bikkurim?

Also, why is ‘simcha’ only mentioned in one other place in the Torah, while in Devarim it is mentioned 16 times? The duty to be joyful seems to be central to our relationship with God. But what is joy? And what is ultimate joy?

The answer to all of these questions will take us into the essence of what it means to be Jewish, and offer us a deep insight into the core of Judaism itself.

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