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Monday, August 27, 2007

Ki Savo, Devorim 26:4. Bikkurim.

The Bracha Achrona Mei’ein Shalosh, which we call “Ahl Hamichyah,” reflects and reiterates birchas hamazon in its structure and topics. Just as the condensed Shmoneh Esrei we say Friday night is called "Mei'ein Sheva," since it condenses the seven-bracha 'Shmoneh Esrei' that we say on Shabbos, the "Mei'ein Shalosh" is a condensed version of Birchas Hamazon, which is a Three-Part Bracha. It tracks the longer Bentching line by line and topic by topic. Why, then, does Mei’ein Shalosh add the words “ve’al mizbechecha”, and “vesamcheinu be'vinyana ve'nochal mi'pirya”, which are concepts that don’t appear at all in regular Birchas Hamazon?

The answer is that while Birchas Hamazon is exclusively for one who has eaten bread, Al Hamichya was instituted for one who has eaten any one of the seven minim; grain (three kinds), grapes, pomegranates, dates, and figs. These are the foods from which we brought bikurim When the Beis Hamikdash stood. Since this bracha reflects the mitzvah of Bikkurim, it is essential that it contain a tefillah asking that Hashem allow us to be meshabei’ach Him for those seven minim by bringing bikurim.

By Bikurim there are two dinim: bringing the Bikkurim to the Heichal, the Sanctuary of the Beis Hamikdash, and putting down the basket next to the mizbei’ach. That is why these ideas are mentioned here– vesamcheinu bevinyana venochal mipirya, and ve’al mizbechecha ve’al heichalecha.

This also explains why in the Bracha of Bareich Aleinu in Shmoneh Esrei most people say “vesabeinu mituvecha” (sate us from Your goodness) but here, in Al Hamichya, everyone says “mituva” (from its goodness, i.e., the produce of the Land of Israel.) Here the focus is on the mitzvoh of Bikkurim, which is a mitzvah hateluya ba'aretz, while in Shmoneh Esrei we are asking for general blessings on parnassah and fruitfulness wherever we happen to be.

This also answers the perplexing question that is asked from the Gemora in Sotah 14. How is it that we say in Al Hamichya, "Ve'ha'aleinu...ve'nochal mipiryah," when the Gemara in Sorah 14a asks, "Why did Moshe so desire to enter Eretz Yisrael? Vechi le'echol mipiryah hayah tzarich?" (This is a rhetorical question, the self-evident answer to which is, “No, of course he did not care a fig about eating the fruit of the land.) It appears from that Gemara that asking to enter Israel for that purpose is unworthy and inappropriate; if so, everyone asks, why, in Al Hamichya, do we ask Hashem, “Please allow us to enter the land of Israel “venochal mipiryoh” (and we shall eat its fruit)? It is clear from the Gemara in Sotah that this is not something we should ask for!

In fact, this discussion is found in the Tur OC 208, at Prisha's note number 13. The Tur (according to the correct girsa of the Bach and the Prisha) says that while our nusach is that of the Rif, the Tur's father, the Rosh, did not end the Bracha with those words. Apparently, the reason is that it seems that aspiring to Kedushas Eretz Yisrael is so sublime, that mixing in the pleasure of its fruit is incongruous. They should have brought the Gemara in Sotah, but these things do happen. The Bach disagrees with the Rosh/Tur, and says that the land itself is infused with kedusha, such that even eating its fruit is a holy experience, or at least it was when there was hashra'as hashechina there. I don't know what he would do with the Gemara, unless he means that for Moshe, such things, stemming, as they do, from physical things, were far beneath the high level of kedusha he would have experienced.

Now, the beginning of the bracha, where we thank Hashem for the fruit we ate and enjoyed, is appropriate. The kashe is only on the end of the bracha, where we ask that Hashem bring us back there in order to eat and enjoy its produce.


But now, with this new understanding of the idea of Ahl Hamichya, we understand that in the Gemara, the phrase "le'echol mipirya" means simply "eating its fruit." On the other hand, here, in Al Hamichya, the phrase "ve'nochal mipirya" is an allusion to the mitzvah hateluya ba'aretz, bringing the Bikkurim, which is brought only "mipirya," from the fruits of the land of Israel.

An interesting addendum:
Last week, we learned about Ben Sorer U'Moreh. To become a Ben Sorer U'Moreh, the person has to have done a number of wicked things, including theft from his parents and gluttony. He also has to have drunk a "Log Yayin Ha'Italki." (Sanhedrin 70a) What is this Italki wine, and why specifically that kind of wine? Rashi says it is an unusually good wine that is known to be addictive. The Yad Ramah in Sanhedrin learns that the Italki Log was larger than the Log measurement used throughout Shas. Rav Reuven Margalios says that just as drinking the wine at a Seudas Mitzva does not make the person a Ben Sorer U'Moreh, because the seudah's kedusha will offset the tuma of the bibulosity, so, too, if the wine is Israeli wine, the inherent kedusha of the wine will offset the tuma, and it will not generate in the person a wild desire for wine at any cost. While imbibing the wine, he also imbibed kedusha, and so he will not fall into the wild desires of the Ben Sorer U'Moreh.

He brings from the Zohar (Be'ha'aloscha 155b) that this is why the Mohn stopped falling when we entered Eretz Yisrael: the kedusha benefit we derived from eating the Mohn was replaced by an equivalent kedusha of eating the fruit of Eretz Yisrael, which themselves stem from the Sitra de'Kedusha.

And, as I mentioned above, the Bach uses this idea to explain "ve'nochal mipirya." We are not just asking that we be able to eat its fruit. We're asking that we be able to eat its fruit "ve'nisba mi'tuva," that we be infused with the kedusha that these fruit contain.

So now we understand. Why for Moshe Rabbeinu desiring the fruit of Eretz Yisrael didn't make sense. Moshe Rabbeinu was eating the Mohn, which had all the kedusha you could want. It was Lechem Abirim. For Modhe, peiros Eretz Yisrael would be a step down. For us, however, they are desirable for their intrinsic kedusha.  

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