Makkot 18 - Having Capacity is Greater than Doing
Rabbi Elazar says: "The step of placing the first fruit before the Altar is an essential one, and without it the ritual is not complete and the fruit cannot be eaten. In contrast, reading the verses is not essential and does not invalidate the ritual."
But did Rabbi Elazar really say this? Didn't he say the opposite in the following ruling: "If one separated first fruit before Sukkot, and Sukkot has passed, and he didn't bring the first fruit, they must be left to rot." Why is this? Isn't it because the owner can no longer say the verses over them? This proves that Rabbi Elazar considers the verses essential!
The answer is similar to the principle of Rabbi Zeira. For Rabbi Zeira has said about flour offering that it must be mixed, and even if it is not mixed in practice, this does not matter, as long as the volume allows it to be mixed. However, if the volume is too large for mixing, the offering is invalid. By the same token, one must be able to say the verses. Not saying them is acceptable, but not being able to say them invalidates the ritual.
Art: Ignace Henri Jean Fantin-Latour - Fruits and Flowers 1866