Declaration of Fulfilling Tithes


Moshe Ben-Chaim


What purpose is there for the Torah command to verbally declare our fulfillment of our third year tithes?  

It is strange that of all the mitzvos, only two, mentioned in KiTavo — first fruits and third year tithes — are commanded to make declarations, and the latter, that we fulfilled the law exactly. Why does the Torah command us to make such statements? Is not the fulfillment the goal? And why is declaration required in this specific manner of apportioning our produce to others?

Rashi says that by making such declarations, we are telling God that "we have done what You commanded us, now You do what is upon You to do." (Referring to Bechukosai, where God promised to deliver rain in due season as a result of our adherence to His laws).

Rabbi Chait taught that any topic taught in Navi and Ksuvim (Prophets and Writings), cannot be entirely new, but must find its root in the Five Books of Moses, the Chumash (Taanis 9a). The Chumash contains all concepts of Judaism, even those seemingly new in the Prophets and Writings. If this is so, I wondered where in the Chumash we find the concept taught in Malachi, where we are requested to test God by giving our Ma’asare of our produce, as we see stated openly in Malachi.

It seems clear that this area in KiTavo is where Malachi is based, and Rashi points this out. The Torah is teaching us that the declaration made subsequent to man's performance of tithing his produce, is done so as to invoke a response from God. Only a verbalization can qualify a subsequent bounty of produce as a "response" from God. This is also why the verses in both areas dealing with first fruits and third year tithes, state that man must make his declaration "lifnay Hashem", "before God." Meaning, we declare to God our exact fulfillment of His word, thereby awaiting a Heavenly response in the form of plenty. Therefore, a verbal declaration is made to render our bounty a response from God, and not mere happenstance.

One may ask why the Torah saw this as so important, that man deserves a response. We must recognize that the monetary concerns of man outweigh all others, as the Talmud teaches, "the money of man stands him upon his feet." Man's security stems from his estimation of his success, and his worries from the converse. The Torah sees fit that man is secured in his wealth, specifically when he is bidden by the Torah to part with up 20% of all profits during his life. This is a sizable portion of his earnings, and man justifiably worries when he must part with such a quantity. God recognizes this and would not require man to do that, which opposes his psychological needs. God therefore tells us that we may test God to see if "He will open the storehouses of heaven, and empty a blessing for us which is more than enough", as stated in Chapter 3 of Malachi. But this concession for man to actually test God is made in this area only, as man would otherwise not part with such portion without a Divine guarantee. As sustenance is our prime instinct, against which, we cannot oppose, God requests us to give, in order to become richer. This is the guarantee, which we must realize is within God's capacity, and that it is God's will.

We should all take a strong lesson from the words of Malachi. We should not feel that our success is due to our long hours of toil, when the Rabbis taught, "one should minimize his labor, and maximize his learning" (Avos). Also, "all is in the hand of heaven, except the fear of heaven." This teaches us that our sustenance is dependent upon God, not ourselves. If we follow His laws, give our tithes and charity, He has many messengers to make us wealthy. We should not view giving charity as a diminution of our wealth, but rather, as a 100% secure insurance policy for our success. God created the entire world, the millions of stars far larger than our sun, and the perfect laws governing them. Distribution of wealth is a small feat by comparison.