In the agrarian world that the Torah was given in, there are many laws regulating land use. One of them was the mitzvah of bikkurim. After spending the best part of a year working a field, the farmer would identify the first fruit to sprout and tie a cord around the fruit. When ripe, he would present it in a grand and elaborate ceremony at the Beis HaMikdash.
Although we don’t practice it today, our tradition treats the mitzvah of bikkurim with critical importance. Not known for hyperbole, Rashi at the beginning of the Torah states that bikkurim perpetuates the entire universe.
Why is presenting the first fruits considered so much more remarkable than almost all other Torah observance?
Every living organism has a self-preservation instinct, which among other things, means seeking food. Accordingly, almost every normal human’s first order of priority is to provide for their families.
In agriculture, a person would have to manually work a plot of land; weed it; plow it; sow it; prune it; weed it some more; reap the crop; dry it; process it; prepare it; and only then was the product edible.
It takes year-round labor and energy to support our families.
This mitzvah teaches us that we must celebrate the end product, but we must not take sole credit for it.
The first thing that sprouts is taken to Jerusalem, and given to the Kohen, and requires him to say, “Thank You, God, for the land and fruit that you have given me,”.
This touches on kindness, gratitude, faith, and humility. Judaism’s vision is a world of kind, humble, grateful, faithful people.
Perhaps in this light, it makes sense to classify bikkurim is foundational. It arguably represents a microcosm of Judaism’s entire mission. No matter how much work we put in, or how successful we are; we don’t control the end product.
We just do our best and hope for the rest.