Parashas Ki Savo

This week’s parashah presents the declaration that a person is supposed to make to testify that he has properly performed the mitzvah of separating and distributing tithes from his produce. Previously, in parashas Re’eh, the Torah discusses the mitzvah of giving charity. We present here the Maggid’s discussion, in his commentary on the two parashios, on the difference between these two mitzvos.
The Maggid begins his discussion with a parable. A person committed a crime and was sentenced to pay a heavy fine. The court authorities went to his house and confiscated some of his belongings as security for payment of the fine. A few days later, the head of a yeshivah came to visit the town. The town leaders wanted to give him a respectable contribution, and they started discussing where they would get the money from. One of them offered a clever suggestion: “We have on hand all these items that we recently confiscated from a criminal offender as security for payment of a fine. Let’s tell him that he must redeem these items now, or else they’ll be sold to someone else.” Having no choice, the offender came forward and paid the fine. But he was upset with the visitor and cursed him vehemently, blaming him for causing him misfortune. It was only because of the visitor that the town leaders pressed him to pay the fine so soon, and he felt that if the visitor had not come, they might even have decided to give him his belongings back.
Now suppose that the sequence of events was reversed – that early in the day the town leaders sent word to the offender that he had to redeem the security items immediately, and afterward the visitor came and the town leaders gave him the money that the offender had paid. The offender would then bless and thank the visitor profusely, and he would be glad that the money he had paid had found its way into the hands of a distinguished Torah scholar. He would think to himself: “If not for this visiting scholar, there’s no telling what they would have done with my money.”
The Maggid then explains as follows. With charity, it is the pauper’s visit to a person’s house that leads him to part with a specific sum of money. The person could thus become upset that the pauper came, thinking that if he had not come he would not have had to part with the money. By contrast, with tithes of produce, the moment a person smooths over a pile of grain, the grain becomes forbidden until he separates the tithe from it. After separating the tithe, he puts it in a designated place in his house.  Afterward, when the Levite comes to his house and asks if he has any tithes to give, he says to him: “It’s good you came. I have some produce that I set aside as tithe that has been sitting here a few days now. Come in and take it.” And he blesses the Levite profusely. In this vein, Sifrei comments that the declaration regarding tithes carries an implicit message: “I have rejoiced and caused others to rejoice on account of this.” When tithes are delivered, both the giver and the recipient rejoice.
With charity, the designation of a specific sum of money as charity and the delivery of the money to the recipient occur at the same time. But with tithes, the designation of the produce and its delivery to the recipient are carried out as separate steps. This fact is reflected in the declaration the Torah commands a person to make regarding tithes (Devarim 26:13): “I have removed the sanctified things from the house, and I also have given it to the Levite, to the proselyte, to the orphan, and to the widow, according to the commandment that You commanded me.” In this declaration, both steps are mentioned.
There is one other respect in which tithing has an advantage over giving charity. With charity, the giving is praiseworthy but there is nothing praiseworthy about ceasing to give. But with tithing, since the Torah specified a set amount, ten percent, that a person is supposed to give, it is proper to give exactly that amount, no less and no more. Thus, when the portion set aside reaches ten percent and the owner stops setting produce aside, the stopping is also a mitzvah. Accordingly, it is specifically when a person finishes dispensing his tithes that the Torah directs a person to declare that he has done as Hashem commanded.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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