The Torah portion of Ki Tavo begins with the mitzvah of the presentation of the first fruits to the Temple in Jerusalem. As we all know, the holiday of the first fruits is Shavuoth, and so, we are surprised by two facts: The first is that when the person presenting the basket of fruit makes his declarations, he refers to the the bondage in and the Exodus from Egypt, rather than the giving of the Torah. The second is that the text of the declaration was used by the Rabbis to carry out the mitzvah of the Haggadah, to tell the story of our slavery and liberation. In fact, what characterizes this text is the fact that a Jew declares in the first person (higgadti) that he came to the land that the Lord promised to our forefathers. Thus, instead of telling the story of the bondage in Egypt and how we were freed as though it concerns only the past, we tell it in the present. When choosing between narrating history using the Book of Exodus and this declaration – just four verses long – the Rabbis decided to use a text to which a Jew could bring his entire experience. A person going to the field to gather the first fruits runs the risk of believing that the products of the earth are only due to his or her work, and not to the constant care of the Almighty. Even the story of the Exodus from Egypt could be viewed as an exclusively human endeavor. Instead, the liberation from Egypt took place thanks to the presence and properties of nature: by bringing the first fruits, we recognize that all the fruits of the earth belong to the Lord and were given to us only in keeping. Personal insight into the exodus from Egypt, awareness of what it means for us today, and recognition that we were liberated with the help of G-d is needed as the basis for a text so fundamental and formative as the Haggadah of Pesach.
Rav Scialom Bahbout