Torah Weekly

For the week ending 1 September 2018 / 21 Elul 5778

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.


Words that Speak as Loudly as Actions

"And you will say to him" (26:3)

What was said at the birthday party:

"What an absolutely fabulous present. I can’t begin to tell you how much I adore it. It’s just what I wanted. I can see it now on my mantelpiece. You have such divine taste. It must have been so-o-o expensive. You really shouldn’t have. I don’t know where to begin to thank you!"

What was meant at the birthday party:

"You call this a present? It’s the most hideous thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve had better gifts out of a cornflake box. I can see it now in my trashcan. Your taste is worse than an Afghan goatherd. This must have cost you all of fifty cents. You really didn’t. I don’t know where to begin to thank you!"

Because insincerity is a fact of life, it’s easy to err on the side of understatement when it comes to saying thank you. However, this week’s Torah portion teaches us that we should verbalize our gratitude fully: There is a mitzvah to bring up the first fruits of the Land of Israel to Jerusalem and present them to the kohen.

The one who does this makes a moving declaration of gratitude to G-d for His eternal role as the Guide of Jewish history. Rashi says that a person makes this declaration "so that he should not be an ingrate."

The question arises: Don’t actions speak louder than words? Isn’t the gift enough of a demonstration of gratitude to G-d?

The Torah teaches us here that a person should never shirk giving sincere thanks. Even though the currency of verbal gratitude may be debased by insincerity, a Jew has an obligation not just to show his gratitude with actions, but to verbalize and specify the nature of the good for which he is thanking his benefactor, whether it is man or G-d.

  • Sources: based on Da’at Torah

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