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The beginning of this week’s parshah contains the halachos of bikurim. When a person sees the first of his fruits blossoming, he must tie a red string on those fruits, 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.

Acharonim suggest that it is apparent from the Rambam’s wording that a person who cannot read the pesukim can fulfill his obligation via the legal principle of shomei’a k’oneh (listening is like saying) by listening to another person read them.


In the third year of a shmitta cycle, there is an obligation to bring ma’aser to Yerushalayim and recite vidui ma’aser. Concerning this vidui, the Rambam says explicitly that each person must say it himself. The Minchas Chinuch writes that a person may not utilize the principle of shomei’a k’oneh and have someone else say it for him – but he is unsure why. Rav Chaim Kanievsky, in his Derech Emunah, explains that vidui consists of repenting and asking for rachamim, and each person must do that on his own.

The Rogatchover, in his Tzafnas Paneach, explains that one must read (kriya) a particular parshah when bringing bikurim, and whenever there is a halacha to read, we can apply the principle of shomei’a k’oneh. The vidui that is recited when one brings ma’aser, however, does not have a din kriya; thus we do not apply the principle of shomei’a k’oneh.

The Mishnah (Bikkurim 3:7) states that when a person who brings his bikurim does not know how to read the pesukim, “mekarin oso” (we read for him). Mefarshim debate what these words mean. The Netziv (Ha’emek She’eila 54:18 and Meishiv Davar, volume 1, siman 47) writes that “mekarin oso” means that another person recites the parshah for him, and he fulfills his obligation by means of shomei’a k’oneh. The Vilna Gaon, in his pirush on Mishnayos, and the Chiddushei HaRa’avan, explain that the mishnah means that one person reads the words 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 for reciting the parshah of bikurim. But why not? Why should the reading of this parshah differ from all other readings, for which we apply the principle of shomei’a k’oneh?

I believe the answer lies in the Sefer HaChinuch, mitzvah 606. The Chinuch writes that the shoresh of the mitzvah of bringing bikurim is gratitude. We are supposed to be me’orer our thoughts and hearts to realize that all the good we enjoy in our lives comes from Hashem. Thus, we bring our first fruits to the Beis HaMikdash and pronounce with our mouths that we recognize and are thankful for all the chesed Hashem does for us.

Perhaps now we can now understand why a person may not rely on the principle of shomei’a k’oneh for reciting the parshah of bikurim. One could argue that whenever there is a recitation of hakaras hatov (expressing thanks for something), a person may not have someone else say it for him. A person needs to say “thank you” by himself.

This rationale is why the Abudraham maintains that a chazzan may be motzi a person who cannot daven the entire Shemoneh Esrei – except for one berachah: Modim. This rationale is also why the entire congregation recites Modim d’rabbanan when the chazzan reaches that berachah. The mispallelim cannot fulfill their obligation of Modim by hearing the chazzan’s repetition. The Abudraham explains that Modim is a berachah of gratitude and one therefore may not apply the principle of shomei’a k’oneh. Why? Perhaps because a person will not attain the right message or proper feelings when he does not personally express his gratitude.

The only question I have regarding this explanation is that it doesn’t seem to fit with the halacha that a person may send a shaliach to bring, and recite the passage of, bikurim on his behalf. The Rambam (Hilchos Bikkurim 2:21) writes that if a person originally set aside his bikurim with the intention to personally bring 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.

If the message is indeed lost when the passage of gratitude is recited by another person, why is a person allowed to send the fruits with someone else?


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Rabbi Fuchs learned in Yeshivas Toras Moshe, where he became a close talmid of Rav Michel Shurkin, shlit”a. While he was there he received semicha from Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, shlit”a. He then learned in Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn, and became a close talmid of Rav Shmuel Berenbaum, zt”l. Rabbi Fuchs received semicha from the Mirrer Yeshiva as well. After Rav Shmuel’s petira Rabbi Fuchs learned in Bais Hatalmud Kollel for six years. He is currently a Shoel Umaishiv in Yeshivas Beis Meir in Lakewood, and a Torah editor and weekly columnist at The Jewish Press.