Torah Weekly

For the week ending 1 September 2007 / 18 Elul 5767

Parshat Ki Tavo

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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When Bnei Yisrael dwell in the Land of Israel, its first fruits are to be taken to the Temple and given to the kohen in a ceremony expressing recognition that it is G-d who guides the history of the Jewish People throughout all ages. This passage forms one of the central parts of the Haggadah that we read at the Passover Seder. On the last day of Pesach of the fourth and seventh years of the seven-year shemitta cycle, a person must recite a disclosure stating that he has indeed distributed the tithes to the appropriate people in the prescribed manner. With this mitzvah Moshe concludes the commandments that G-d has told him to give to the Jewish People. Moshe exhorts them to walk in G-d's ways, because they are set aside as a treasured people to G-d. When Bnei Yisrael cross the Jordan River they are to make a new commitment to the Torah. Huge stones are to be erected and the Torah is to be written on them in the world's seventy primary languages, after which they are to be covered over with a thin layer of plaster. Half the tribes will stand on Mount Gerizim, and half on Mount Eval, and the levi'im will stand in a valley between the two mountains. There the levi'im will recite 12 commandments and all the people will answer "amen" to the blessings and the curses. Moshe then details the blessings that will be bestowed upon Bnei Yisrael. These blessings are both physical and spiritual. However if the Jewish People do not keep the Torah, Moshe details a chilling picture of destruction, resulting in exile and wandering among the nations.


Verbal Gratitude

“You will come to whomever is the kohen in those days and you shall say to him…” (26:3)

A blisteringly hot Wednesday.

Suddenly the power cuts. A visit from the electrician reveals the worst: “It’s the compressor in your a/c. You need a new one. Trouble is the manufacturer can only get it here by next Tuesday.”

“But what are we going to do on Shabbat?”

“Does your Shabbat table fit in the fridge? Listen, I think I can get you a new compressor before Shabbat. I’ll do my best.”

“You’re a tzaddik!”

And sure enough, by Thursday lunchtime, the new compressor is in place and the house returns to its regular near-artic temperature.

Friday afternoon the electrician’s mobile phone rings. He notes the caller ID; it’s the people with the new compressor.

“Oh, oh. Trouble…” He thinks to himself as he answers the phone.

“We just wanted to call you and thank you so much for fixing our air conditioner. You’ve really made our Shabbat. Thank you so much! Shabbat Shalom!”

Gratitude should never remain implicit; as much as we feel, so should we express.

In this week’s portion, the Torah instructs us to give bikurim, first fruits, to the kohen. However, it’s not enough just to give them.

“You will come to whomever is the kohen in those days and you shall say to him…” Rashi comments on the phrase “and you shall say to him“ — “because you are not an ingrate.” In other words, what prevents a person from being an ingrate is the verbalization of his gratitude; anything less is considered lacking.

We learn this principle from G-d: In Parshat Nasso, the princes of the tribes brought gifts for the inauguration of the Mishkan sanctuary. The gifts of each prince were identical. Brevity and style would demand that the gifts of the first prince be enumerated and those of the remainder abbreviated. However the Torah did not stint in recording each and every one separately to show G-d’s specific and verbal “appreciation” of each and every gift.

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