One of the key aspects of our being created in the Divine image is the gift of speech. As the world was created with ten divine utterances (Avot 5:1) our tzelem elokim (divine image)allows us to create (or G-d forbid) destroy many little "human" worlds. Yet almost strangely, perhaps brilliantly is a more apt description, there is very little a Jew must actually say.
Mitzvoth, the core of Judaism have as their focus actions, and are rooted in a system of core beliefes (though there is debate about exactly what they may be). Very few mitzvoth, on a Biblical level at least, require the spoken word; it is much preferred that we listen rather than speak. Most of the mitzvoth involving speech either deal with issues pertaining to the broader community as a whole (i.e. the priestly blessing, the king's reading of the Torah every seven years), court procedures, or mitzvoth that relate to specific, usually tragic situations that hopefully are not too often encountered i.e. halitzah (for a complete list see Mishna Sota chapter7). Even the most prominent mitzva requiring speech, that of prayer, is meant to be recited silently and originally did not even have a fixed text. Kriat shma, the acceptance of the yoke of heaven, another one of the mitzvoth requiring speech, may also, acc ording to some Talmudic authorities, be also be said silently.
Yet in parshat Ki-Tavo the opening two mitzvoth require a speech or more precisely a declaration. Interestingly both relate to the farmer in the land of Israel. The farmer living in Israel, had to formally and publicly express his gratitude for G-d's blessing and for the sacred land whose produce he enjoys, giving his "first fruits" ( bikkurim ) to the priest.
Immediately thereafter the Torah tells us that this same farmer must make a declaration that he has tithed his food properly and shared them with the "levite, the stranger, the orphan, the widow" (26:13). It was the sin of the meraglim who spoke negatively about the land that so affected Jewish history. The Torah in its brilliant wisdom thus requires the farmer to state and state again what a blessing it is to live in the land of Israel. Interestingly the only other individual Biblical mitzvah requiring speech, birchat hamazon is, despite it being applicable wherever we eat, also connected to the land of Israel having as its source "and you and be satisfied and thank the Lord your G-d for the good land that He has given you" (8:10).
After asserting that indeed he has followed all the laws relating to tithing the farmer asks G-d to "look down (hashkifa ) from Your holy habitation in heaven and bless Your people Israel and the land that You have given us" (26:15). The Jerusalem Talmud notes that with this one exception, the word hashkafa (looking) connotes a "cursed" event. Rashi quotes this Talmudic passage the first time the Torah uses the word; "and the men (the "angels" who came to visit Abraham) rose up from the place vayashkkeefu, and looked towards Sedom (Breisheet 18:16).
Sedom was (in) famous for their total lack of compassion towards" the stranger, the orphan the widow" setting the standard for xenophobia that all too many have emulated. To avoid the same fate of those of sedom we must ensure that unlike them the disadvantaged are part and parcel of our community. Every time the farmer harvested his crops he was reminded of this. Whereas the goal of the sedomites was to use its fertile territory for economic wealth, the goal of the farmer in Israel is to use his economic wealth in the service of others, thereby serving G-d.
Ultimately the things we speak about are those things which we consider most important. There is apparently very little that is more important than helping those in Israel who are in need. Shabbat Shalom!