On Shabbos my younger brother gave over a short d’var torah in typical question answer format.
Q: When people brought bikurim, the rich brought it in gold baskets, the poor straw. The Kohanim would give back the gold baskets and keep the straw. Why?
I came up with several reasons, some serious, some not
– -Show the rich people that they’re not so hoity toidy and “we don’t need your gold baskets”, appreciating the value of the simple straw style
– It was the Bais Hamidash, there was no shortage of gold, but something simple like straw people overlooked and therefore the Kohanim took the straw they needed and returned the gold they didn’t
– Or plain old, to let us ask this boring questions, to pontificate at length, come up with boring long-winded answers when it’s really something simple and obvious.
The answer actually is,
When the rich presented their bikurim, the Kohanim would take it out of the basket and show off the beautiful tithes. They didn’t want to embarrass the poor people with their puny offerings, so they just relieved them of the bikurim, basket and all.
We’re supposed to be impressed by this display of sensitivity.
And I argued back
– It’s not sensitivity, in fact it’s worse. It’s labeling the poor man. Why not just NOT display the rich man’s and keep his stupid gold basket
– They’re assuming that because someone is poor he can’t have a good crop. Poor people can have a nice crop, just smaller. Like wise, the rich man doesn’t necessarily have a good crop, like juicy grapes, he just has a lot of them and sells them to the raisin makers.
– Also if the guy has gold baskets, he can afford to lose one a year. If the guy’s poor and has – heaven forbid- straw baskets, he probably needs them. Straw doesn’t grow on trees (they grow on the ground 😉 )
– Additionally they are minimizing the contribution of the poor man, and lauding the one of the rich man, when really their money, or lack of, has nothing to do with them, but the lot Hashem gave them. Why point that out, and make it a factor of appreciation, when it has nothing to do with the individuals accomplishments.
– We are always being sensitive to inanimate objects, the challah by kiddush, Moshe, to the earth and water. Why are they not sensitive to straw versus gold? They are making an obvious preference and placing a value over one to the other. Isn’t that a little insulting, embarrassing, belittling, and insensitive to the straw?
I went on and on.
I think I make a lot of sense. But the thing is, it wasn’t like the way I think it should be and the reason my brother gave still stands as their intention.
It’s one thing for me to challenge current opinion or something theoretical, but I’m going after the very paradigm I seek to recreate. So therefore I’m feeling a little sacrilegious, and blasphemous. I’m sure if I asked someone to clarify it, it will be, but right now I’m lazy and a little dissent feels good.