On Thursday, the day after the holiday of Shavuot, hundreds of people gathered in the Old CIty of Jerusalem for a reenactment of the Temple service known as bikurim, or the “bringing of the first fruits.” The ceremony included a special thanksgiving offering that sealed the recent Sanhedrin ruling establishing the boundaries of Jerusalem for the Third Temple.
The procession along the walls of the city to Tekuma Park was accompanied by musical instruments specially made for use in the Third Temple, and blasts from shofarot (ram horns), just as the Talmud described it in Temple times.
The ceremony was performed by Kohanim (men of the priestly caste) dressed in authentic garb as described in the Bible, led by Rabbi Baruch Kahane, who has played a prominent role in many of the Temple reenactments.
In the days of the First Temple, the first fruits of the annual harvest were brought to Jerusalem as an offering between the holidays of Shavuot (Festival of Weeks) and Sukkot (Festival of Booths). The fruits were brought in baskets, beautifully displayed, and given to the priests. For the reenactment, children from all over Israel presented Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, a member of the Sanhedrin, with first fruits they had gathered from their personal gardens.
“Bikurim is giving back to God the best from what he gave us: the Land of Israel,” said Rabbi Hillel Weiss, spokesman for the Sanhedrin, to Breaking Israel News. Rabbi Weiss cited the verse from Deuteronomy, from which it is learned that first fruits may only be brought from the land of Israel; the commandment cannot be performed outside the land.
Thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which thou shalt bring in from thy land that Hashem thy God giveth thee; and thou shalt put it in a basket and shalt go unto the place which Hashem thy God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there. Deuteronomy 26:2
Bikurim are brought from the seven species which have a special significance to Israel: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olive oil, and dates (honey).
A land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey Deuteronomy 8:8
The fruits were given to the priests after the donor recited a confession, detailed in Deuteronomy 26:1-11, acknowledging God as the one who redeemed the Israelites from the Egyptian bondage, and expressing gratitude to God for bringing them to the Promised Land.
Sheep were presented by the Kohanim, but the actual slaughtering was performed in a different location.
The foreleg and the breast were presented to Rabbi Kahane as a representative of the priesthood. The remainder of the sheep was roasted, as mandated in the Bible.
The ceremony included bringing thanksgiving offerings of loaves specially prepared for the ceremony. The Sanhedrin has been involved in a study of the borders of Jerusalem, culminating in their official ruling. Just as in the days of the Temple and the original Sanhedrin, they marked this ruling by a thanksgiving offering, designating the borders of greater Jerusalem for the Third Temple era.
“This, coming just after Jerusalem’s Jubilee, was precisely the time to establish greater Jerusalem,” Rabbi Weiss said. “And Shavuot is the holiday that celebrates God giving Israel the Land of Israel.”
The Sanhedrin modelled their ruling after the same action performed by Ezra and Nehemiah, who mapped the boundaries of the city of Jerusalem when they returned to rebuild the Temple in the fifth century BCE.
The borders of greater Jerusalem established by the Sanhedrin reach from southern point designated by Karmei Tzur in Gush Etzion to the south, the city of Ofra in Samaria as the northern point, Jericho as the eastern point, and the city of Beit Shemesh in the West. The Sanhedrin has made several tours of the border, setting up signposts to designate the area.
The rabbi explained that as a holy city and the location of the Temple, the boundaries of Jerusalem have Biblical implications and are not a matter for secular and political authorities to determine.
“These are the borders sanctified for purposes of the Third Temple, within which Jews will be permitted to eat their Paschal sacrifice and any other Temple purposes which may only be performed within the Holy City,” Rabbi Weiss said, citing the Prophet Zechariah to indicate the ramifications for impinging on the sanctified borders of the city.
For thus saith Hashem of hosts who sent me after glory unto the nations which spoiled you: ‘Surely he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. Zechariah 2:12
“The world is arguing about the history of Jerusalem, when all of that is written in the Bible,” said Rabbi Weiss. “While they try to rewrite the Bible, here in Jerusalem we are bringing the words to life. Precisely as they are written.”