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By: Yaacov Silverstein
This Years Parsha Series is prepared in the memory and merit of my
Rav Yitzchak Zev Ben Yisroel Mordechai Hakohen Solomon Z"L
Rav Chaim Meir Ben Yakov Silverstein Z"L
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Pasuk: (26:3/26:13) "You shall come to whomever will be the Kohen in those
days, and you shall say to him, "I declare today to Hashem, your G-d, that I
have come to the Land that Hashem swore to our forefathers to give us...Then
you shall say before Hashem, your G-d, "I have removed the holy things from
the house...I have not transgressed any of your commandments, and I have not
This week's Parsha starts off with the details of the commandment of
bringing one's first fruits to the Temple and presenting them to the Kohen,
in a ritual that included a moving declaration of gratitude to G-d for His
eternal role as the Guide of Jewish history. This commandment is known as
Bikurim - first fruits. By a Jew performing this commandment, he shows that
he dedicates everything that he has in this physical world, to the service
The farmer first makes the above declaration and than he continues (26:5-10)
to recite a special formulation thanking G-d for His kindness.
Just a little further on in our Parsha, we find another moving declaration
called "The Declaration of the Tithes". Tithes must be taken from all one's
crops, according to a set "three-year" cycle. This cycle is repeated every
year except for every 7th year (Shemittah) and every 50 th year
For a quick glance at the three year cycle and its appropriate tithes
(Maaser - there is also Terumah (to the Kohen) & Maaser Rishon (to the Levi)
every year, of this 3 year cycle):
Year 1 - Maaser Sheni - Has a degree of sanctity, must be eaten only in
Year 2 - Maaser Sheni - Has a degree of sanctity, must be eaten only in
Year 3 - Maaser Ani - Tithe to be given to the poor, doesn't have to be
eaten in Jerusalem.
Year 4 - Maaser Sheni - Has a degree of sanctity, must be eaten only in
Year 5 - Maaser Sheni - Has a degree of sanctity, must be eaten only in
Year 6 - Maaser Ani - Tithe to be given to the poor, doesn't have to be
eaten in Jerusalem.
Year 7 - Shemittah - No Terumah / No Maaser Rishon / No Maaser Ani or Sheni
/ No Terumat Maaser (Given by Levi to Kohen).
Back to where we left off.
The day before Pesach of the year after each 3 year cycle, every owner must
make sure that he has delivered all the tithes to their proper destination,
and on the last day of Pesach of the 4th and 7th years, he recites the
confession found in 26:13-15. This ceremony is called a "confession of
tithes" and is preferable to take place at the Temple, but it may be recited
Many commentators make a point of the fact that for the "first fruits" we
make a "declaration", while the declaration of the "tithes" is called a
There are a few other differences between the two ceremonies. By Bikurim
(First Fruits) one says the declaration aloud, and by Maaser (Tithes) it is
said quietly. Bikurim can be said only in Lashon HaKodesh (Hebrew) while
Vidui Maaser can be said in any language. (Even though Bikurim is not a
confession, it does have a bit of confession in it, and therefor it is also
called a sort of confession, but to a lesser extent than that of Maaser.)
We can derive from these two examples a very important lesson for Jewish
living. We see that the act of speech is a very powerful force in this
world. It is not enough to feel gratitude for G-d in one's heart.
By saying something out loud, it has a deep and profound effect upon the
human mind. Speech awakens the heart. As Rabbit Tzadok of Lublin
explains - "do not rely on thoughts alone. Rather release the thoughts
If a person wants to work on his positive growth, by just thinking of
wanting to grow to become a better person, growth might only be minimal. It
is already in the physical realm and therefor, to some extent, it is
considered to have been already carried out.
However, by one stating verbally the desire to grow or to change his bad
habits, it is more than just a mere thought.
This verbal declaration and confession before Hashem is an integral part of
the act of repentance, which is a major theme of the month of Elul. In this
month we are to repent and prepare ourselves for the High Holidays.
The Rambam writes that repentance means that one is to abandon his sins,
remove them from his heart, and take it upon himself not to repeat such sins
in the future. One must also regret the wrongful act and "confess with his
lips" and say all the things that he has thought of in his heart.
We again see the great need of one's thoughts to be stated from one's lips
in order to help achieve a lasting change. This is also why Torah study is
often done out loud, for it lasts longer in one's memory. This is why when
someone enters a Yeshiva, he may see many books, but it is nowhere as quiet
as a library.
I was sitting and learning in my local Yeshiva, when in walked a respectable
tourist from the USA. He looked around a bit and his tour guide explained
to him what a Yeshiva is....all of a sudden he heard one of the students
chanting the Talmudic text in a tune-like fashion. This right away aroused
his curiosity and he asked me what the student was saying, if it was some
sort of prayer. I explained to him that at times people learn the Talmud in
a sing-song fashion. Some Rabbis even state that it is better to do it this
way, because you then feel more part of your learning and it lasts longer in
one's memory. It states in Talmud Eruvin 54:a (top), that Rebbi Eliezer had
a student who learnt Torah quietly and after 3 years he forgot his learning.
Torah has to be part of all your limbs, if not, it wont be kept in you!!
If we find it hard to repent before Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, try to
verbally say what you feel you need to correct. And if you still need help,
walk into a local Yeshiva and listen to the pleasant sound of Torah
learning, maybe that will help awaken your spirit!!
(Adapted from - Artscroll Chumash, Zahav Mishvah, Beiras HaMayim, Forever
His Student pg 140)
A special Thank You to my mother for checking & correcting the first DT
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