Ki Tavo 5777

D'var Torah | Deuteronomy

Chapter 26 of the Book of Deuteronomy presents two declarations. The first declaration is that of the pilgrim farmer to Jerusalem who brings first fruits (Deuteronomy 26:5 – 10). The Israelite who fulfills the mitzvah of tithing every third year makes the second declaration. Aside from the variant content of each of the respective declarations, Rabbi Joseph Bekhor Shor of twelfth century France notes that the declaration regarding first fruits is said aloud while the declaration regarding tithes is said quietly.


That the declaration regarding first fruits is said aloud is learned by way of analogy. The Hebrew words used to give the instructions on how to make the declaration in Deuteronomy 26:5 are the very same Hebrew words used to describe the public ceremony performed between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal in which the Levites are to respond out loud (Deuteronomy 27:14). Since the words must be said aloud by the Levites, then where the Torah applies the same language to pilgrims, their declaration must be said aloud as well. Since the same words are not used for the tithe declaration, the only conclusion to be drawn is that this declaration is not recited out loud.


Bekhor Shor, however, adds a more compelling explanation. The declaration regarding first fruits is a tribute to the beneficence of God. Through His blessing the pilgrim farmer enjoyed the produce of his labor. Reciting this kind of prayer aloud is appropriate. The tithe declaration, in contrast, is a statement of assurance that none of the rules governing the handling of tithes had been violated. To recite this kind of prayer out loud would border on boasting. Boastfulness – even in compliance with the law – argues Bekhor Shor, ought not be condoned. Accordingly, such a declaration would best be recited quietly.


To sharpen the contrast and contemporize it, the lesson learned is praise of others – particularly praise of God – should be loud while praise of oneself is neither aloud nor allowed. Humility is the only virtue for which no award may ever be accepted and no recognition claimed. And the Torah trains us to be humble.



Words to Live By

What lies behind you and what lies ahead of you pales in comparison to what lies inside you.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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