"When you have finished tithing every tithe of your produce...you shall say
before G-d your L-rd, 'I have removed the holy things from the house and I
have also given it to the Levite, the convert, the orphan and the widow
according to whatever commandment You have commanded me; I have not
transgressed any of your commandments and I have not forgotten.'"
(Devarim/Deuteronomy 26:12-13) At the end of the three-year tithing cycle,
after ascertaining that all tithes were indeed distributed, all Jewish
landowners are commanded to go to the Bais HaMikdash (Holy Temple in
Jerusalem) and proclaim that all the tithes were given as we were
commanded. This process is referred to as the "Confession of the
Tithes." The verse appears to be a simple statement of compliance with the
will of the Master of the Universe by saying that we have done everything
that He commanded us to do. How can this be called a confession?
Rabbi Yissocher Frand (Rosh Yeshiva at Ner Israel Rabbinical College in
Baltimore) offers an insight into what we should be doing at this time of
the year so close to the Day of Judgment.
We read in Eichah/Lamentations (3:40) "Let us search and examine our ways
and return to G-d." What does it mean to "search our ways"? Some have a
tendency of looking at themselves and saying, "I'm a pretty good person.
I'm kind to people and stay away from sin." This is a conclusion readily
reached with shallow introspection, looking only at the surface. However,
by delving deeper (as uncomfortable as it may be) we will find numerous of
flaws. Even if at one level of depth all appears to be "clean", we must
always dig deeper and find those small ways that we can be better. This
process is called "searching our ways."
A careful analysis of the text of the confession of the tithes finds this
point embedded there as well. The proclamation is not "I did every
commandment You commanded me." Rather the text states, "according to
whatever commandment You have commanded me". This implies, "Although I
gave out all the tithes within my obligation, I may not have given them in
the best way. Perhaps I was late, or perhaps not with the best smile so the
poor person feels dignified." There is always room for improvement. Thus
it is the "confession of the tithes."
The month of Elul that precedes Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) is a
time dedicated to introspection and taking spiritual inventory. No one of
us enjoys having to admit to a friend that we wronged them; how much
greater is the discomfort in confessing our misdeed before our Father, our
King. We must maintain our focus on our goal - the continued growth and
strength in our relationship with the Creator of the Universe - and the end
result - the most sublime pleasure available: a relationship with the Divine!
Have a good Shabbos!
Please forward your questions for Rabbi Gilden to
Kol HaKollel is a publication of the Milwaukee Kollel Center for Jewish
5007 West Keefe Avenue; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; 414-447-7999