Parshat Ki Tovo
begins with the mitzvah of
, bringing the first fruits to the
and dedicating them to Hashem. At the conclusion, the farmer prostrates himself before Hashem, a requirement unique to
. The Shaarei Derech cites the Midrash that the world was created in the merit of three mitzvot, referred to as
, beginning, and for which there exists a Rosh Hashanah to commemorate the beginning of the world. They are
(the first of your dough), tithes, and
. What was so special about
? The Midrash Tanchuma tells us that today, since we no longer have a
, we have the mitzvah of praying three times a day instead. What is the connection? The Meirosh Tzurim mentions another rather cryptic association with this passage.
records the praise of the dog which is the verse alluding to this passage, "Come let us prostrate ourselves and bow down and bless Hashem our Maker." The Moda Labinah quoting the Zohar states that the key mitzvah of Rosh Hashanah is
, the Day of Judgment. While we understand that judgment is the essence of the day, how is that a mitzvah?
Rabbi Leff asks, why did the Torah command us to bring the first fruit instead of the best fruit? Because the first, the beginning, lays the foundation for all that is to follow, and like the foundation of a building, it must be without blemish if what follows is to be sustainable. If one wants to infuse sanctity into a project, one must begin with sanctity. As the Tolna Rebbe explains, although it appears that our work and nature have partnered to produce this fruit, all nature comes from Hashem. Therefore we dedicate the first fruits to Hashem so that all the rest of our endeavors will be equally holy. The Shaarei Derech citing the Baal Haturim notes that there is no letter
in the entire passage of
is a circular letter implying that nature makes thing happen cyclically. Bringing
to Hashem belies this philosophy and "gives back" to Hashem that which is rightfully His. What then is the connection between
and prayer? Rabbi Frieman continues. We pray because even when all is well we have no guarantees that the status quo will continue. Everything can change in one moment. We start our day with
, we continue with declaring that Hashem renews creation each day, and we
two more times in the day. Dogs, extremely brazen creatures, still recognize their masters and obey their commands. They acknowledge Hashem's mastery over their very nature in the verse they sing to Hashem, writes the Tzabeni Rav. Since Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of a new year, everything can change. Therefore one should approach it as one who is poor and downtrodden. As the Sifsei Chaim writes, if you want a good year, realize with full clarity that we have nothing, and we must beg anew for everything. We have no guarantees that what we have we will retain. We are completely dependent on Hashem. Therefore, writes the Tiv Hatorah, we should train ourselves to say, "
Im yirtzeh Hashem,
" or, "
," - with God's will and His help, constantly in our conversations, because all could change in a moment. The Talelei Chaim reinforces this message.
mean not only head and beginning, but also source. On Rosh Hashanah we connect ourselves to our ultimate Source and are charged with revealing His presence in the world. It is the Day of Judgment when we have the ability to plug in to Hashem and recharge our batteries to do His will, for He is the One Who empowers us.
Perhaps we can better understand how our attitude on Rosh Hashanah can affect our lives by way of a parable from the Matnas Chaim. A boy was adopted by a man in the construction business. The father raised the boy with much love and gave him everything he needed. When the boy grew up, he decided he wanted to repay his father for all his kindnesses by building him a magnificent mansion. He presented his idea to his father who then gave him a letter to present at his warehouses giving him immediate access to all materials he requested at no cost. Other people waiting in line to fulfill their purchases had to pay full price for all their materials and were not only puzzled but also angry. After all, they did not know that all the materials this man was collecting were to be used for a home for the owner of the construction company himself. Similarly, on Rosh Hashanah we approach Hashem with the desire to coronate Him on earth and to do His bidding. We hope that in doing so, we will be granted all the blessings necessary to accomplish our task.
Rabbi Roberts notes that the Ramban considered humility the greatest of all character qualities, and the mitzvah of
is a model for humility. Although the farmer has invested so much into this crop, he nevertheless acknowledges that it all belongs to Hashem. The passage immediately preceding
, where we are commanded to remember how Amalek attacked us as we left Egypt. Amalek is also referred to as
, the head, or chief, among nations. They were unafraid to challenge anyone, even God Who had already demonstrated His supremacy to every other nation. Amalek was the epitome of arrogance. Even their name is numerically equivalent to haughtiness,
, both totaling 240. The Torah juxtaposes these two passages for us to note the contrast, and especially on Rosh Hashanah to distance ourselves from arrogance. We must recognize our own inadequacies to merit Divine grace. As Rabbi Reiss points out, when I pray before Hashem, it is because I realize my own nothingness and recognize that He is the Source of all. The essence of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is complete humility, writes the Netivot Shalom. That's why many have the custom to prostrate themselves fully and bow during
and the recitation of the
did in the
and as the farmer did when he brought the
. We must efface the ego which stands between ourselves and Hashem. To this end, we substitute prayer three times daily for the
. When we bow before Hashem, we are demonstrating our willingness to break our arrogance and acknowledge that our life energy comes from Hashem. The Sifsei Chaim notes that Rosh Hashanah is called
, the day of sounding the broken notes of the
, for on this day we come before Hashem completely broken and humble. This is the proactive mitzvah of the day, notes the Avodat Avodah, to stand in humility before Hashem and accept His sovereignty over us. Perhaps a good way to incorporate this idea into our daily lives is to stop at the word
every time we say a
and to ponder the meaning of standing before the King. May we merit to be inscribed in the Book of Life for a year of revealed goodness and blessing.