Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hadran Masechet Bikkurim an Seder Zera'im of the Talmud Yerushalmi

Dedicated to Bat-Sheva bat Chana Bluma and Rephael ben Miryam may Hashem grant them perfect health

With the help of Hashem Yishtabach Shemo, I have finished learning masechet (tractate) Bikkurim, the last tractate in Seder (order) Zera'im of the Jerusalem Talmud. From the beginning of the first tractate, Brachot till the end of Bikkurim there are 11 tractates, almost 400 folio pages which took me almost two years to learn. At first I learned a page a day. When that proved to be impossible, I set aside an hour and a half each day for learning the Yerushalmi. I owe a great debt to Rav Chaim Shpitz, my Rosh Kollel and chevruta for much of this learning, for helping me with his great erudition and especially for his moral support. I also wish to thank Rav Yechiel Halevi Barlev for his commentary "yedid Nefesh" without which I would have been lost in the forest of differing and often contradictory girsaot(textual versions).Also to the Schottenstein team for their exhaustive commentary on several of the tractates.


Seder Zra'im begins with the tractate Berachot-blessings. This seems to have nothing to do with the general subject of the seder-zera'im(seeds) which has to do with the laws pertaining to agriculture and the use of the land in the Land of Israel. Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Nassi began Seder Zra'im with Berachot to emphasize that we can only partake of the produce of the land after we say the approppriate blessing to acknowledge Hashem as the source of all sustenance  He began with the blessings of kriat shema, proclaiming the One-ness of Hashem before we even consider partaking of his bounty. And also to say that it is not "kochi ve'otzem yadi" (human strength and striving) which brought us this great bounty.

Berachot begins with the Kohanim- "When do we recite kriat shema? From the time the kohanim enter(the Temple) to eat the teruma"  And the seder ends with the laws of how bikkurim (first fruits) were allocated to the Kohanim. Says the Yerushalmi-" Chachamim say that they (the bikkurim) are given to the leading members of the Watch and are then distributed among them as are all kodeshim (Holy offerings)
The Gemarra ends with a discussion of the usage of bikkurim and compares it with the usages that can be made of a Torah Scroll. "We have learned- it is said in the name of RaSHBaG " One can sell a Torah scroll in order to marry a woman, and to learn Torah, how much more so to sustain ones life!" Here he disputes the Bavli where RaSHBag says the opposite-that one cannot sell a Torah scroll for living expenses, It seems that the Yerushalmi is saying if you don't have enough to live how can you marry or learn Torah ?? (my peirush)
"We also learned-One who sells a sefer torah that belonged to his father will never see a blessing from the transaction, but of one who keeps a sefer Torah in his home it is said (Tehillim 112) " Treasure and wealth is his home and his righteousness will last forever."
הדרן עליך מסכת ביקורים וסדרא דזרעים ברחמיו מרובא וסייעתא דשמיא טובא אמן

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