The Gemara in Megilla 31b says that Ezra instituted that we should read Parshas Ki Savo before Rosh Hashanah. Why? Because, the Gemara explains, in Parshas Ki Savo the Torah writes about the terrible things that will befall the Jewish people if they do not listen to Hashem, and we want to read that before year’s end, so that the troubles of the year can end along with the year itself, and the new year can begin without any misfortune.
Also in this week’s parsha the Torah writes about something that Chazal refer to as vidui ma’asar. The Torah says that after a three-year cycle of ma’aser one must come to the Beis Hamikdash and make the following declaration: I removed all the sanctified food (teruma and ma’aser) from my house, I gave it to the Levi, the convert, the orphan and the widow, as you commanded. I did not transgress any of the commandments nor did I forget anything. I didn’t eat from the holy food when I was an onen (a mourner prior to burial) nor did I handle them in a state of tumah, nor did I use it for the dead. I listened to the voice of Hashem my God, and I did everything that I was commanded to do.
The commentators were bothered by a glaring question. Vidui means confession of wrongdoing. When someone brings a korban for a sin he must perform vidui. On Yom Kippur we do vidui several times to repent for all of our iniquities. Where in the above mentioned declaration is there even an allusion to a delinquency? On the contrary it is an assertion of perfection, and meticulous execution of everything that was commanded of a person. Nowhere in that statement is there any hint of a sin. Why do Chazal refer to this declaration as vidui ma’aser?
Another question that could be asked is what the purpose of this “confession” is. When it comes to confessing a sin, we understand that Hashem wants us to verbalize what we did wrong and repent. But why would Hashem want us to make a declaration of self-excellence?
Perhaps the second question opens the window to understand the answer to both questions. In order for a person to properly confess a sin he must first feel that he is great. He must have an appreciation for himself and his self-worth. If one feels that he is a nobody, then one more sin will not make a difference and his repentance cannot be sincere. It is only when a person is aware that he is generally great and has excelled in many areas can he begin to feel remorse for individual sins that he committed.
It is for this reason that the Torah commands that a person come to the Beis Hamikdash and declare that he executed everything that God asked of him with precision. He must declare that he got every detail right and didn’t even make any mistakes. The Torah is teaching us that it is not enough to think and feel this way, but a person must verbalize it and declare it. Then he will be able to perform the more commonly known vidui of confessing one’s sins.
Perhaps this is another reason why Parshas Ki Savo is always read before Rosh Hashanah. Before we go into detail and confess all of our sins we must remember that we are great people who have accomplished great things individually. Only subsequent to that realization, or confession, can we enter the Yamim Noraim and confess wholeheartedly.