This column is dedicated to the refuah sheleimah of Shlomo Eliezer ben Chaya Sarah Elka.
At the beginning of this week’s parshah the Torah discusses the halachos of bikkurim. When one sees the first fruit blossoming, he is to tie a red string on that fruit, bring them to the Beis HaMikdash, and give them to a kohen. While there, he must read a passage from the Torah found in the beginning of this week’s parshah. The Acharonim suggest that it is apparent from the Rambam’s wording that one who cannot read the pesukim can fulfill his obligation by listening to another person who reads it. This works by means of shomei’a k’oneh.
Unlike the reading of the parshah that one must recite by bikkurim, the Rambam says explicitly that each person must personally recite the vidui that is required to be said when he brings his ma’asros in the third year. Regarding vidui of ma’aser, the Minchas Chinuch says that one may not utilize the halacha of shomei’a k’oneh – but he is unsure of the reason. Rav Chaim Kanievsky, in his sefer, Derech Emunah, explains that vidui is repenting and asking for rachamim, and each person must do that on his own.
The Rogatchover, in his sefer, Tzafnas Paneach, explains that regarding bikkurim one must read (kriya) the parshah. Whenever there is a din kriya we may apply the halacha of shomei’a k’oneh. The vidui that is recited when one brings his ma’aser is not a din kriya; thus we do not apply the halacha of shomei’a k’oneh.
However, the Mishnah in Bikkurim 3:7 says that when a person who brought his bikkurim did not know how to read the pesukim – “mekarin oso” (we read for him). There is a dispute as to the interpretation of these words. The Netziv (Ha’emek She’eila 54:18 and Meishiv Davar, volume 1, siman 47) says that this means that another person can recite the parshah for him, thereby fulfilling his obligation by means of shomei’a k’oneh. The Vilna Gaon, in his pirush on Mishnayos there, and the Chiddushei HaRa’avan explain that the Mishnah means that one person reads and the one who cannot read repeats the words after him.
It seems from the Vilna Gaon and the Ra’avan that shomei’a k’oneh would not work on the issue of reciting the parshah of bikkurim. Why not? Why should the reading of this parshah differ from all other readings, whereby we indeed apply the halacha of shomei’a k’oneh?
I believe that the answer lies in the Sefer HaChinuch, mitzvah 606. The Chinuch says that the shoresh of the mitzvah of bringing bikkurim is that Hashem wants us to be me’orer our thoughts and form our hearts in order to realize that all of the good in our lives comes from Him. Therefore He gave us a mitzvah to bring the first fruits to the Beis HaMikdash and to pronounce with our mouths that we recognize and are thankful for all the chesed that Hashem does for us.
Perhaps this is the reason why one may not rely on the halacha of shomei’a k’oneh for reciting the parshah of bikkurim. Whenever there is a recitation of hakaras hatov (expressing thanks for something), he may not have someone else say it by applying the halacha of shomei’a k’oneh. We find this concept by “Modim” in chazaras hashatz. The Abudraham explains that the chazzan may be motzi one who cannot daven the entire Shemoneh Esrei – except for one berachah: Modim. This is the reason why the entire congregation recites Modim de’rabbanan to themselves when the chazzan reaches that berachah. This is because the mispallelim cannot fulfill their obligation of Modim by hearing the chazzan’s repetition. The Abudraham explains that this is because the berachah of Modim is a berachah of thanking Hashem, and as such one may not apply the halacha of shomei’a k’oneh. Maybe the reason for this is that a person will not get the right message or proper feelings when he does not personally recite the sentiment of thanks.
The only question I have on this explanation of why one may not rely on the halacha of shomei’a k’oneh is the fact that one may send a shaliach to bring, and recite the passage of, bikkurim on his behalf. The Rambam, in Hilchos Bikkurim 2:21, writes that if one originally set aside his bikkurim with the intention of personally bringing them to Yerushalayim, he should not send them with someone else. But if he picked the first fruits with the original intention that someone else should bring them to Yerushalayim, he may send them with that person.