For an explanation of the methodology of this series, see the introduction.

"You shall call out and say before the L-rd, your G‑d, "An Aramean [sought to] destroy my forefather, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there with a small number of people, and there, he became a great, mighty, and numerous nation." (Deut. 26:5)

Peshat (basic meaning):

Rashi: 'And you shall call out/v’anita'
[This Hebrew word] usually means "respond." However, in this context [this word] denotes the raising of the voice.

Laban, when he pursued Jacob, sought to uproot all [the Jews]...

"An Aramean [sought to] destroy my forefather"
[The declarer] mentions [here] the kind deeds of the Omnipresent [by stating]: "An Aramean [sought to] destroy my forefather." That is, Laban, when he pursued Jacob, sought to uproot [i.e. annihilate] all [the Jews], and since he intended to do so, the Omnipresent considered it as though he had actually done it (Sifrei 26:5) for [regarding] the pagan nations of the world, the Holy One, Blessed is He, considers the [mere] intention [of an evil deed] as [being equivalent to] the actual perpetration [of the deed itself].

"who then went down to Egypt"
And [apart from Laban] still others came upon us to annihilate us, for after this, Jacob went down to Egypt [as it says: "and the Egyptians treated us cruelly"].

Siftei Chachamim: "Jacob went down to Egypt"
"An Aramean would have destroyed my father and he descended to Egypt" could be taken to mean that the descent to Egypt was the direct result of "an Aramean would have destroyed my father", but Rashi explains that they are 2 separate incidents.

Remez (hinted meaning):

There is no Baal HaTurim on this verse.

Derash (interpretive meaning):

Targum Yonatan: [Our father] Jacob went down into Aram Nahariam at the beginning, and Laban [sought to destroy him; but] the Word of the Lord saved him out of his hands. [And afterwards he went down to Egypt]….

"put the first fruits in a basket" (Deut. 26:4)

Of everything you come across in the world, take for yourself the G‑dly part that is in it...

R. Dov Ber: Of everything you come across in the world, take for yourself the G‑dly part that is in it: absorb the holy intelligence in every single thing which binds it together in patterns of beauty. Soak up within yourself the Divine spark that is in the thing. Know that every single thing has a "first fruit" waiting to be appreciated and connected to the conscious human intelligence. (Peninei HaChassidut, Ohr Hatorah)

R. Eliezer of Vizhnitz: Every person should visualize inside of him or herself a little basket a place of inner receiving. Into this place deposit your moments of special appreciation. This inner basket will be a bank of gratitude for the gifts of the earth which we consume and enjoy. (Peninei HaChassidut)

Lubavitcher Rebbe: First fruits represent the Jewish souls, as the Midrash teaches, that the Divine Thought to create Jewish souls "preceded everything". (Bereishit Raba 1:4) Thus, Jewish souls are "first" and cherished in a way similar to first fruits.

When the soul is in Heaven, before it enters a body, it enjoys an intense, ecstatic relationship with G‑d. Nevertheless, it is sent down to earth in a body which conceals its relationship with G‑d. This is not without profit, since through this descent the soul is able to carry on its mission in the physical world, which can result in an even more intense relationship with G‑d. For G‑d's innermost desire is for His mitzvot to be carried out specifically in the physical world.  

This is a lesson from the requirement of the first fruits being placed in a basket. Although they are the first and finest of the crop, they cannot achieve perfection without a basket. Likewise, the Jewish soul which is G‑d's highest priority, cannot achieve perfection without coming down into a physical body in a world of concealment and temptation, because it is precisely through that descent that an even greater ascent is achieved. (Likutei Sichot 29:150)

Ohr HaChayim: This paragraph [verses 1-10] is an illusion to our inheriting the supernal realms:

"which the L-rd your G‑d gives to you": When man complies with G‑d's commandments, his accomplishments are considered to have been done by him; his action is gifted to him, for otherwise man has no claim as his actions were made possible only by means of the world in which he resides, and "the land and its fullness are the L-rd's".
All the good deeds a person does must correspond to the guidelines set by our Sages...
"you will place it in a basket": All the good deeds a person does must correspond to the guidelines set by our Sages in the 60 tractates of the Talmud, for the gematria of 'basket/TeNa', is 60.

"And you will go to the place": According to Zohar, (I:81) man does not normally proceed to be received directly by G‑d, rather he goes to the ante- chamber to prepare himself. Our verse alludes to the period for man's soul to prepare itself for face to face with G‑d

"and you will come to the priest": The person offering his first fruits recite these words to archangel Michael, the High Priest Above.

"who will officiate at that time": The angelic priests officiating in celestial spheres are [also] subject to rotation.

"and you will say in your spiritual poverty": No matter how much a person tries to do good in this life, it can never be enough to please G‑d. The recital the Torah prescribes for the farmer bringing the first fruits is nothing but a list of excuses cited by man for failing to live up to G‑d's expectations of him.
First it refers to his labor under Laban the swindler, who is the evil inclination

'Avi/my father' refers to "the original father", Adam who sinned, and 'oved/loss' is a reference to the mortality that his sin introduced to the human race. Also, 'Avi/my father' may refer to the soul seeing that all Satan's efforts are to corrupt and destroy the holy soul in man.

The body is referred to as 'Egypt/Mitzrayim' for it exerts constant pressure on man through pleasures man lusts after. ['Mitzrayim' literally means place of constriction.]

"it sojourned there": Initially Israel's soul in Egypt, Satan's home, was like a stranger's presence.

"few in numbers": This was the relatively weak forces of Satan at this time, which then increased due to co-operation of man himself.
Satan's power is not to be discounted.
"while there became a powerful nation": The word Rav/great refers to the evil urge whose powers are great. That G‑d commanded us to perform the rites of the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement is proof that Satan's power is not to be discounted. He gets the goat to Azazel.

[The parable continues showing how G‑d took us out in holiness, etc.]

Sod (esoteric, mystical meaning):

Zohar Vayishlach 167:
Come and see: it is written of Balaam, "And G‑d came to Balaam at night". (Num. 22:20) Of Laban, the verse says, "And G‑d came to Laban the Aramean in a dream by night, and said to him, Take heed that you speak not to Jacob..." (Gen. 31:24) Why is it written, "that you speak not," rather than 'that you harm not?' Laban did not chase Jacob with an army of men to wage war against him [unlike Esau – Ed.] for the power of Jacob and his sons is greater than that of Laban. But he chased him to kill him with his mouth and destroy everything, as it is written, "An Aramean wanted to destroy my father." This is why it says, "that you speak not," and not, 'that you harm not'. It is also written, "It is in the power of my hand to do." How did he know he had the power? From that which "G‑d of your father spoke to me last night..."

This is the testimony that the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded to pronounce, as it is written: "And you shall speak and say before Hashem your G‑d, an Aramean wanted to destroy my father." "And you shall speak" is similar to the verses, "You shall not bear false witness", (Ex. 20:13) "and has testified...against his brother". (Deut. 19:18)

...speech is therefore superior to — and can control — the world of action.

BeRahamim LeHayyim:
G‑d created all with speech: "G‑d said let there be light"
The power of speech is the source of creation of the physical earth plane and all that is upon it. So, speech is therefore superior to — and can control — the world of action.

According to Kabbalah, the World of Asiya/ Action is "lower" than the world of Yetzira/Formation which is related to speech.

Makes sense. Speech emanates from the mouth located in the head pretty close to the brain. Action comes from the hands otherwise known as "extremities" because they are extremely far from the brain.

G‑d knew the powers of Laban and Balaam share soul-roots. We see both share the letters Beit and Lamed in their names, which combined spell 'Lev/heart' or 'Bal/Not'.

These guys knew the power of negative thinking, big time. As sorcerers, they knew how to curse really well, which is why G‑d commanded them not to speak evil: See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil.

And just like G‑d warned Laban and Balaam not to say bad stuff about Jacob or his children, so too must we take this to heart: do we want to be more like Laban or Jacob? Balaam or Moses?

Moses' beloved siblings were chastised for their improper speech. In fact in Sefardi tradition we repeat this portion from the Torah about Miriam every day:

"Remember what G-D your G‑d did unto Miriam, by the way as you came forth out of Egypt"
Rabbenu Yonah's classic Shaarei Teshuva (Part III, Chapter 5) discusses the prohibitions involving speech, where he concludes "know that the personal devastation and ruin most people suffer originates in the actions of the tips of their tongues."

This week, could we take this to heart and fulfill this remembrance for at least 24 hours?

Copyright 2003 by, a project of Ascent of Safed (// All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.