September 11, 2014
This week’s parsha of ki tavo (when you come in [to the Land]) begins with the laws of the First Fruits ( Bikkurim) and the blessing one must say when he brings his Fruits to Jerusalem.
“And you will declare before Hashem your God, ‘I have taken the holy tithes out of my house and have also given them to the Levite and to the stranger and to the orphan and to the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me. I have not transgressed Your command, neither have I forgotten.”
“Neither have I forgotten” – Rashi: To bless You on the occasion of giving the tithes.
Why does Rashi bring up the issue of a blessing? It would seem that “I have not forgotten” means “I have not forgotten Your commandments.”
The latter part of our verse says: “[I have done] according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me. I have not transgressed Your commandments, neither have I forgotten.”
After the person proclaims that he has done all that God commanded him without transgressing His commands, what need is there to say any more? What can the words “Neither have I forgotten” possibly add? There are no tautologies in the Torah.
The answer is that a person may do all the mitzvot according to the halacha precisely, yet miss the essence of things. One must not lose sight of the ultimate goal of mitzvot. The commandments are from God and their spiritual goal is to direct us back to God. At times, being preoccupied with the details of a mitzvah, one may forget its essence. In our verse Rashi tells us that this person makes clear that he has not forgotten the essence – he has remembered Who gave him his plentiful harvest and has thanked Him for it.
We find an often unnoticed consistency in the Torah. When the Torah describes the blessings of the Land that are to be found in Israel, immediately afterwards are warnings lest we forget Hashem.
“And you will eat and you will be satisfied, then you shall bless Hashem your God, for the good Land which He has given you.” (Deut. 8:10)
The very next verse says:
“Take heed lest you forget Hashem your God etc.”
“Lest you will eat and be full and build good houses … and silver and gold will multiply for you … and your pride increases and you forget Hashem your God..”(Deut. 8:12-14)
“And I will give the rain in its time …and you will gather your crops…and you eat and be satisfied…Take heed that your heart not mislead you and you turn aside etc.” (Deut. 11:14-16)
“Since you did not serve Hashem, your God, with joy and good heartedness, when you had all the good.” (Deut. 28:47)
“And Yeshurun grew fat and kicked (i.e. rebelled against God.) etc.” (Deut. 32:15)
Clearly, the blessings and their plentitude carry within them the potential risk of forgetting the Source of all blessings. Forgetting God would seem to be an occupational hazard of receiving His blessings. Therefore, the Torah constantly stresses that once we have received His blessings we should be mindful not to forget the Source of these blessings; not to forget Hashem Who has “given us the strength to make our wealth.”
We can now understand, as Rashi did, that the words in our verse “neither have I forgotten” refer to remembering Hashem and thanking Him with a blessing.