Mishnah Bikkurim1:2

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The laws of siqriqon

Date: 
200 CE to 220 CE
Place: 
Syria Palaestina
Language: 
Hebrew
Category: 
Jewish
Literary genre: 
Legal text
Title of work: 
Mishnah
Reference: 

Bikkurim1:2

Commentary: 

According to this text, an offering of first fruits should only be brought to the Temple if it were grown on one’s own property on the basis of the biblical command: “The first of the first fruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God” (Exodus 23:19, based on KJV; emphasis added). The Mishnah lists those who, despite having cultivated the produce at hand, are excluded from bringing this offering to the Temple: sharecroppers, tenants who farm a parcel of land for a fixed price, robbers and the siqriqon. The exact origin of the word siqriqon (;סיקריקון also spelled siqariqon) is unclear (see suggestions in Lieberman, Tosefta Ki-Feshutah, vol. 8, p. 841; Safrai, “Sikarikon,” p. 60-61). In rabbinic texts, the term siqriqon can refer to property that was confiscated by the Romans or to laws regarding lands that had originally been owned by Jews, were confiscated by Rome, and later given or sold to other Jews. The holder of such land is also called a siqriqon (irrespective of whether he confiscated the land himself or whether he purchased or received it from the confiscator). These laws were implemented in response to “anti-Roman political activities” (Shahar, "Why a Quarter?,” p. 195) since, as Yuval Shahar has shown, they were not applied to Roman confiscations of land in the context of economic misconduct, such as failure to pay taxes. Scholars have long associated the inception of these laws with the years immediately after the destruction of the Temple (70 CE). More recent research, however, suggests that the siqriqon laws may have originated during the period following the Bar Kokhba revolt, when large-scale land confiscations took place in Judea (Safrai, “Sikarikon,” p. 63). It is also feasible that this law reflects an earlier time (prior to 66 CE), which was characterized by Jewish resistance to Rome.

Mishnah Bikkurim1:2 decrees that a siqriqon – in this case, a Jew who owns land which had been confiscated from another Jew by Roman authorities who then gave or sold it to him – is not qualified to bring an offering of first fruits (that were cultivated on that land) to the Temple. Tannaitic midrashim feature parallels to this text; for example, this passage from Mekhilta de RabbiIshmael, Mishpatim, tractate Decaspa, parashah20, ed. Horovitz-Rabin, p. 335 (see also Sifre Deuteronomy 197):

["ולקחת מראשית כל פרי האדמה] אשר תביא מארצך" [דברים כו ב]. להוציא אריסין וחכורות והסיקריקון והגזלן.“

[…you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground which] you shall bring from your land” (Deuteronomy 26:2, based on ESV). Excluding sharecroppers and tenants and the siqriqon and the robber.

As in the Mishnah, this midrash cites the biblical verse which prescribes that Israelites should bring an offering of first fruits “from your land” to justify the siqriqon's exclusion from this ritual. If this law originated in the Second Temple period, it would have held practical implications. For scholars who hold the position that the laws of siqriqon were formulated after the destruction of the Temple or even after the Bar Kokhba revolt, this discussion seems academic since the Mishnah rules that these offerings cannot be brought in the absence of the Temple (Sheqalim 8:2). By contrast, with respect to other tithes and gifts that were given to priests, Levites and the poor, the Mishnah makes accommodations for their continuance after the destruction of the Temple (Bikkurim2:3). This ruling concerning the siqriqon carries an important message: the confiscation of land by Roman authorities for “anti-Roman political activities” is analogous to robbery and, therefore, is illegal according to rabbinic law. By extension, the siqriqon is not considered the legitimate owner of the land, but rather as a robber (or, at best, as a tenant). 

Keywords in the original language: 

Bibliographical references: 
Acknowledgements: 
Yuval Shahar
Realized by: 

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Mishnah Bikkurim1:2
Author(s) of this publication: Yael Wilfand
Publishing date: Sun, 11/25/2018 - 12:37
URL: http://www.judaism-and-rome.org/mishnah-bikkurim-12
Visited: Thu, 07/18/2019 - 03:17

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