In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review August 6, 2007 / 23 Menachem-Av, 5767


By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir

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Understanding the Torah's obligation of tithing. It's more than fighting poverty.

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: Is there still an obligation to tithe, as described in the Bible? How do we fulfill this obligation today?

A: Actually there is widespread misunderstanding of the Biblical tithing obligation. The Torah does not actually command a general tithe of agricultural produce for the poor. The "first tithe" described in the Torah actually goes not to the poor, but to the tribe of the Levites.

This tithe is a fascinating example of the anti-aristocratic element present from the very beginning of Jewish history. To the best of my knowledge, the institution of hereditary landed gentry was present in virtually every civilized land until only a few generations ago, yet was found in not a single organized Jewish community since antiquity. Indeed, an intensely debated program for so-called Jewish "improvement" at the beginning of the 19th century counted among Jewish "failings" the following: "No class distinctions". (1)

Instead of an aristocracy — a dominant, landed class that collects taxes from subservient tenants or serfs based on their ownership of land, the Torah presents the tribe of Levi as a model anti-aristocracy, a class of itinerant scholars who collect taxes from free citizens based on their own lack of ownership of land. "Don't abandon the Levite in your gates, for he has no portion and inheritance among you" (Deuteronomy 14:27).

More precisely, their inheritance is spiritual, not material: "Therefore, Levi has no portion and inheritance with his brothers; the Lord is his inheritance, as the Lord your G-d spoke to him" (Deuteronomy 10:9). The first tithe, which is given to the tribe of Levi, is meant to free them and compensate them for devotion to G-d's work: "And to the children of Levi I have given the tithe in Israel as a portion, in return for the service they serve, the service of the Tent of Meeting" (Numbers 18:21). As Maimonides explains, the service in the Tabernacle is only an example; the Levites are meant to devote themselves to learning and teaching Torah.

Thus, the first tithe was designed to advance enlightenment, not domination.

The second tithe also was not devoted solely to the poor. The agricultural cycle in the land of Israel is seven years in duration. In the seventh, or Sabbatical year, all produce is freely available to all. In the third and sixth years, there is a second tithe given to the poor. In the remaining four years, the farmer himself takes the second tithe, or its value, and consumes it in Jerusalem together with his family, taking due care to share it also with the less fortunate.

The second tithe is not collected and redistributed by some central authority; rather, it is distributed by the farmer individually. In the first, second, fourth and fifth years he has to actually meet and endow the poor; in the third and sixth year he is expected to actually invite them to join him in his good fortune. "And the Levite, who has no portion and inheritance with you, will come; and the stranger, and the orphan and the widow in your gates; and they will eat and be satisfied, so that the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do" (Deuteronomy 14:29).

Thus this tithe was meant not only to support the poor but also to advance social solidarity by creating a meaningful interface and interaction between haves and have-nots.

The Biblical tithing obligation applies only to agricultural produce in the land of Israel. But for hundreds of years it has been customary to donate a portion of our income to charity, and the most accepted amount is one tenth of after-tax income. The Shulchan Aruch (authoritative Code of Jewish law) states that the average person should give one-tenth of his income to charity, and that anything less is considered stingy. (3)

This custom retains the spirit of the original agricultural tithe. The personal element is maintained, as this tithe is distributed according to individual discretion and is in addition to regular taxes, including communal levies, which are administered by the community as a whole. (4)

Likewise, the custom keeps the focus on enlightenment. While the main recipients of charity funds are the poor, a Midrash states that the foremost recipient of tithes should be "Those who labor in the Torah," (5) and Torah scholars and Torah education are given a high priority. And when giving to the poor, the highest level of charity is that given to enable a person to earn an independent living. (6)

We see that the original tithing obligation of the Torah, and its modern-day equivalent, are far more than a simple "poor tax"; they are a tool not only to fight poverty, but also to increase enlightenment, equality, and social solidarity.

SOURCES: (1) See Amos Elon, The Pity of It All, pg. 114 (2) Maimonides Code, Laws of Shemitta 13:12 (3) Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 249:1 (4) Turei Zahav commentary on Yoreh Deah 249:1 (5) Midrash Tanchuma, Deuteronomy 14:22 (6) Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 249:6


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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.


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