I am a wonderful person:
I woke up this morning and went to shul, davened the entire teffila with kavanah, gave an incredible amount of tzedakah as an anonymous donation. I helped an old lady cross the street, I dealt honestly and even politely at business with enough time to return home and learn Torah for a couple of hours, spend time with my family and volunteer for communal concerns. I spoke no loshon hara, didn’t fester a single ill feeling toward anyone that I had encountered…..
This above speech may seem strange to many of you. You are most probably taken aback by my unabashed way of gloating about my accomplishments. If I am as big a tzaddik as I claim to be surely I would also be modest enough not to brag about it.
As strange as such a speech would be it would seem that this is precisely what the Torah mandates for us in the Mitzvah mentioned in this weeks parsha known as “Viduy Maasrot”.
On Pesach of the Fourth and the Seventh Year of the Shmitta cycle after having distributed all of our “trumot and maasrot” we are to make a declaration concerning how perfect we were in fulfilling all of our obligations. We state that we have allocated the correct portions to the appropriate persons, we have not been negligent in any of the Mitzvot, and we did not mistreat or show a lack of respect for the holiness of the produce.
Why does the Torah insist on not only proper execution of the Mitzvot but in this case, a self promoting speech to go along with it?
Before we can answer this question, let us review the basic laws of Terumot and Maasrot. According to the Torah, tithes are taken from the crops in three year cycles. In each of these two cycles, one-tenth of the produce was given to the Levi who serves in the temple (ma’aser rishon). An additional tenth is consumed in Jerusalemduring the first, second, fourth, and fifth years (ma’aser sheni). In the third and sixth year, the second tenth is set aside for the poor (ma’aser ani). After two of these cycles fully take place, the sabbatical year (the seventh year) occurs when no tithe is taken at all.
It thus turns out that one declares the “Viduy maaser” after each year in which maaser ani, the tithe distributed to the poor, is given. Viduy maaser is thus a declaration one recites after each time he completes the full tithing cycle, after having given all three tithes. It is at this point when he can proudly affirm, “I have obeyed the Lord my God; I have done just as You commanded me” (26:14).
In probing the underlying significance of this mitzva, we might suggest the following, symbolic approach to viduy maaser. The three tithes required of a Jewish farmer perhaps represent three general categories of obligations the Torah casts upon a Jew. “Maaser rishon,” which one gives to the Levi in exchange for his service in the Templealong with the teruma given to the kohen, symbolizes one’s responsibility to help support religious institutions. A Jew must allocate funds to help support Torah learning, synagogues and educational programs. Secondly, as represented by “maaser ani,” a person bears an obligation to assist the needy in his community. Finally, one must bring “maaser sheni” to Jerusalem. Symbolically, this may represent a person’s responsibility to himself, to establish his own, personal, direct connection to Torah learning and spiritual fulfillment. One does not fulfill his obligation merely by supporting religious institutions and the poor; he must be not only a supporter, but a participant.
Only once an individual has separated all three tithes, after he has fulfilled all three obligations – towards the Torah, towards the underprivileged, and towards oneself – can he come before God and declare, “I have done just as you commanded me.”