A kilometer away from our community of Rosh Tzurim in Gush Etzion, is a dirt road named Derech Avot, the way of the Patriarchs. In this area our forefathers and ancestors tread. Two mikvaot, ritual baths, were found in very close proximity of each other on Derech Avot. It is surmised that one was for the men and one was for the women who ascended to Jerusalem for the shalosh regalim, the three holidays: Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot.
Two days before Shavuot, approximately 550 school children in grades 1st through 3rd walked in the tradition of our ancestors and brought “bikkurim” (first fruits) to the young Kohanim and Leviim among their ranks. It is an annual ceremony which I have been privileged to see since we moved out to Gush Etzion five years ago. The children, replete with floral crowns, baskets of fruit, musical instruments and high spirits, walked in a procession, led by a goat wearing a floral crown, from the Alon Shvut religious elementary school, over a bridge, through the beautiful gardens of the Har Etzion yeshiva campus and to the central square in front of the main synagogue in the older neighborhood of Alon Shvut.
While some family members accompanied the school children all the way, many others were waiting in anticipation in the central square. While walking with the procession I spied a group of toddlers, wearing crowns with fresh green leaves, looking with great interest at the passing crowd.
The Kohanim and Leviim in their white costumes ascended the steps of the synagogue and received “bikkurim” from a representative of each class. All the children read the passage from the Torah which speaks of the first fruits. There was the sound of sweet voices as the children sang songs related to the Torah and the Land of Israel.
This year the “bikkurim” ceremony was made all the more moving, since the annual bestowing of chumash Bereishit (the book of Genesis) to each of the first graders occurred afterwards inside the synagogue. Following that ceremony there was a learning session with parents and their children. If we could all have the enthusiasm for learning I witnessed on this day!
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.