Pisqa’ 301

Pisqa’ 3011


“Then you should respond, saying” (Dt.26:5).

Here, response is mentioned (Dt.26:5),

and elsewhere, response is mentioned (Dt.27:14).

Just as the response mentioned elsewhere (Dt.27:14)

refers to a response in the sacral language,2

so, too, the response mentioned here (Dt.26:5)

must refer to a response in the sacral language.

On this basis they taught:

In the olden days,

whoever knew how to declaim3 would declaim,

and whoever did not know how to declaim—

they would declaim for him.

When people hesitated to bring the First-fruits

[lest they expose their ignorance,]

sages ordained that:

whether one knows how [to declaim] or not,

they shall declaim for him. 4

They based this [innovation in the rite] on the verse:

“Then you should respond” (Dt.26:5)—

Actually, response implies [prompting] from the mouths of others.


“Saying5 before HASHEM your God:

an Aramaean [desired] to destroy my father” (Dt.26:5).6

This teaches that

Father Jacob descended [from the Land] to Aram

only on the condition that he be destroyed (li’abeid),7

and that Laban, the Aramaean, be considered

as if he had destroyed him (‘ybedo).

“But he descended to Egypt” (Dt.26:5)—

this teaches that he did not [intend to] descend permanently,

but only for temporary asylum.8

Would you insist that he descended

in order to seize the royal crown?

The Teaching states:

“Taking asylum there” (Dt.26:5).

Is it possible to say that

he brought along a vast population?

The Teaching states:

“With a few men” (Dt.26:5)—

in accordance with what was said:

“With seventy persons did your ancestors descend to Egypt” (Dt.10:22).

“And they grew there into a great people” (Dt.26:5)—

this teaches that Israel stood out there.

“And He saw our suffering” (Dt.26:7)—

for it is stated:

“When you examine their birthing-stools, if it is a boy, then kill him” (Ex.1:16).

“And our toil” (Dt.26:7)—

[toil is the waste of our fertility,]

for it is stated:

“Every son born shall be thrown into the river” (Ex.1:22).

{“But HASHEM took us out of Egypt . . .

amidst powerful signs and prodigious wonders” (Dt.26:8)—}9

R. Judah would create a mnemonic for them,

pronouncing their initial letters [as an acrostic]:

DaTZaK, `ADaSH, B’AKHaB .10


“Then He brought us to this place” (Dt.26:9)—

this implies the Holy Abode.

Or: is it [equally] possible to say that

this implies the Land of Israel?

When He says [in the same verse]:

“And He gave to us this Land” (Dt.26:9)—

indeed, the topic here is the Land of Israel!

What, then, does the Teaching convey by

“Then He brought us to this place” (Dt.26:9)?

As a reward for our arrival at this place, [the Holy Abode],

He has given us this Land.

“A Land dripping with milk and honey” (Dt.26:9).

Here we find the phrase,

“a Land dripping with milk and honey” (Dt.26:9);

and elsewhere we find the phrase,

“a Land dripping with milk and honey” (Ex.13:5).

Just as elsewhere, the phrase,

“a Land dripping with milk and honey” (Ex.13:5),

refers to [the territory of] the five nations

[i.e., Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites, and Jebusites],

so, too, here, the phrase,

“a Land dripping with milk and honey” (Dt.26:9),

must refer to [the territory of] the five nations.

R. Yose the Galilean says:

they do not bring First-fruits from Trans-Jordan,

for it does not drip with milk and honey!11


{“And, now, indeed, I have brought” (Dt.26:10).}12



“I have brought”—from my own [soil].13

“The first and finest of all the fruit of the soil” (Dt.26:10).

On this basis they taught:


A person may go down to his field

and see an early-ripening fig,

an early-ripening grape-cluster,

or an early-ripening pomegranate,

tie some reed-grass around it,

and say:

These are indeed the First-fruits!14

“Which you have given me, HASHEM” (Dt.26:10).

On this basis they taught:

Administrators [of property],

[Hebrew] slaves,

court-appointed messengers,15


persons with ill-defined genitalia,16

and those with both sets of genitalia,17

bring the First-fruits, but do not declaim—

for they are unable to say:

“Which you have given me, HASHEM” (Dt.26:10) 18

[since their status prevents them from owning land].


“And set it before HASHEM . . ., and prostrate yourself before HASHEM your God” (Dt.26:10)—

this teaches that

settings should be performed twice—

one at the time of the declamation,

and one at the time of the prostration.

“And you shall rejoice” (Dt.26:11)—

with as many kinds of rejoicing as possible.

“In all the good” (Dt.26:11)—

this is by means of the song

[offerred as an expression of joy during the rite].19

“Which HASHEM your God has bestowed upon your household” (Dt.26:11)—

this teaches that

a person may bring the First-fruits

from his wife’s property and then declaim [on her behalf].

“You, and the Levite, and the migrant who is in your midst.” (Dt.26:11)

On this basis they taught:

Israelites of impaired lineage

make the confession,

but not proselytes, or freed [gentile] slaves

[who have been naturalized as Israelites].

for they have no [ancestral] share in the Land.20

  1. H:290-291;JN2:276-279.
  2. Heb. leshon haqodesh. This term is commonly rendered as “Holy Tongue.” In most rabbinic contexts, as here, it refers to the scriptural texts that are recited aloud in the course of ritual exercises of speech. Cf. Pisqa’ 291.2.
  3. Heb: liqr’ot. In this case, the sense is to deliver a text aloud in leshon haqodesh from a written transcript such as a scriptural scroll.
  4. // M/Bik.3:7
  5. Pisqa’ 301.2 closely parallels the text of the Passover Hagaddah. In general the Sifre version is briefer than that of the Haggadah, although it does as well contain some material that is absent from the Haggadah’s version. For details, see the critical apparatus of F:319, ls. 5ff. and M. Kasher, A Critical Edition of the Passover Haggadah, pp. 32-43.
  6. Cf. the translation of JPS: “My father was a fugitive Aramean” and the following note.
  7. The dual connotation of the root, ‘-b-d (“to be lost” or “to destroy”) is the textual hook that enables the midrashist to read the figure of Laban into the narrative of the declaration as the “Aramean” who “sought to destroy” Jacob.
  8. This passage, poorly attested in copies of Sifre, also not found in the Haggadah.
  9. Dt.26:8 appears in the text of the Haggadah, but is lacking in versions of Sifre. I supply it here for intelligibility.
  10. The acrostic, composed of the initial letters of lists of technical terms and the like, is a common mnemonic technique of scribal elites in the ancient Mesopotramian and Mediterranean world. In Rabbinic scholasticism, the acrostic is known by the Greek term, notariqon (see Jastrow, s.v.). The solution to the present example is:Dam (blood), TZefardei`a (frogs), Kinim (lice),`Arov (wild beasts), Dever (cattle fever), SHekhin (boils),Barad (hail),‘Arbeh (locusts), KHoshek (darkness), Bechorot (death of the Firstlings).
  11. //M. Bik.1:10. Cf. Pisqa’ 299.2.
  12. The quotation of Dt.26:10 does not appear in texts of Sifre. I’ve interpolated it within brackets for the sake of intelligibility.
  13. Cf. Sifre Nu., 117, Sifre Nu. 119.
  14. =M.Bik.3:1.
  15. The first three listed are temporarily landless as a condition of fulfilling certain social roles and therefore cannot truthfully acknowledge the Land as theirs.
  16. Heb: tumtum; “one whose sex is obscure.”
  17. Gr: ‘androgynos;” “androgyne.” This second group of three, because they are women or inconclusively male, are precluded by biological destiny from uttering the confession that includes acknowledgement of the Land as theirs.
  18. =M.Bik.1:5.
  19. // M. Bik. 2:4. The “song” in question, according to M. Bik.3:4, appears to be Ps.30.
  20. //M.MS.5:14.