To give and to bring

The final two personal mitzvot in the Torah and the Yamim Noraim.

Torah Mitzion Torani Tzioni Movement

Judaism שירת הענבים
שירת הענבים

  Rabbi Yehuda Susman

Former Rosh Kollel (Chicago, 1999-2002), currently Rosh Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi

To give and to Bring

This week’s Parsha, Ki Tavo, begins with what are essentially the final two Mitzvot in the Torah – Bikurim (the bringing of the first fruits to the Mikdash) and Vidui Maasrot (the statement that the farmer makes upon the completion of the tithing cycle).

It does not take much to realize that philosophically, the latter Mitzva finishes the process begun by the former. Bikurim represent one’s dedication to God at the beginning of an enterprise, full of hope and anticipation. Vidui marks the completion of a task – the maturation and actualization of a responsibility borne with the potential seen in its first fruit.

There is, however, more that connects the two. In general, the Torah does not set liturgy. Even according to the Rambam, who views Tefila as being a Torah commandment, the actual text is determined by the individual. Not so with the prayer demanded of the bringer of Bikurim and the one who finishes his tithes. In both instances, the text (Devarim 26:1-15) is laid out word for word.

A careful analysis of some of the key phrases may shed some light on why that is so. The key verbs in the passage of Bikurim are “NaTan” – to give and “LeHaVi”- to bring. Each is used seven times in only ten psukim. For the most part, “NaTan” describes God’s gifts to man. Man, in response, can “give” nothing to God. At the most, he can only offer, he can only “bring”; hence the verb “ LeHavi” is employed to describe the bringing of bikurim to the Mikdash.

How different is the prayer at the completion of the Maasrot cycle. Here I am told to delineate not what I have “brought” to God but what I have given – NATATI to my fellow man. The focus of the maasrot is almost entirely on how I share the good fortune God has given me with others – the Kohen, the Levi, the widow, the orphan and the poor. In short, I am instructed to transform the dedication to God encapsulated in the bringing of Bikurim before Him into the imitation of God inherent in the giving of Maasrot and Tzdaka.

Rosh Hashana too marks both the beginning and the end of the yearly cycle. Not coincidentally, while we “bring” ourselves before God with Teshuva and Tefila,  it is only when we also add the giving of Tzdaka that we are assured of removing the “Ro’a HaG’zeira.

May we merit that our prayers and efforts be accepted so that we and all Bet Yisrael may be inscribed in the Sefer HaChayim.

Shana Tova and Ketiva V’Chatima Tova

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