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Daily manna from the Torah by Dr Ketriel Blad

Korach 38-7


Numbers 18:21-32

"To the children of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Yisra'el for an inheritance, in return for their service which they serve, even the service of the tent of meetingŠ For the tithe of the children of Yisra'el, which they offer as a heave-offering to HaShem, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance: therefore I have said to them, Among the children of Yisra'el they shall have no inheritance."

Num. 18:21, 24 HNV

How was the tithe given in Israel in times of the temple?

The tithe, in Hebrew “maaser”, is the part of the agricultural products that was set aside once a year and given to different places. There are three different tithes: the first tithe, in Hebrew “maaser rishon”, the second tithe, in Hebrew maaser “sheni”, and the tithe to the poor, “maaser ani”.

First of all, the “trumah”, "the consecrated part", was set aside and it was given directly to the priest. It was a matter of 1.7 – 2.5 % (1/60 – 1/40) of the produce.

Secondly the “maaser rishon”, with is 10% of what remains of the produce, is set aside and given to the Levite. The Levite in turn sets aside a tenth of what he received and gives it to the priest. This is called trumat maaser, compare with Numbers 18:26.

Thirdly, “maaser sheni”, which is 10% of what remains of the produce, is set aside and taken to Yerushalayim to be eaten there. This is done during the first, second, fourth, and fifth years of the seven year agricultural cycle, compare with Deuteronomy 14:22-26. During the third and sixth year, one must give “maaser ani” instead of “maaser sheni”. It is given to the poor, Deuteronomy 14:28-29. During the seventh year, the tithe of the agricultural produce is not given.

 Laborers who earn money on things that have nothing to do with agriculture, for example fishermen or merchants, give their tithe during the seventh year as well.

The tithe was given to the Eternal. After that, He gave it to the Levites. No one could therefore say a tithe is given to man, even though in a sense, it is men who receive the tithe. The tithe is given as a salary for the Levite ministry. One part of that ministry is to teach the Torah, as it is written in Deuteronomy 17:9-11: "and you shall come to the priests the Levites, and to the judge who shall be in those days: and you shall inquire; and they shall show you the sentence of judgment. You shall do according to the tenor of the sentence which they shall show you from that place which HaShem shall choose; and you shall observe to do according to all that they shall teach you: according to the tenor of the law which they shall teach you, and according to the judgment which they shall tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside from the sentence which they shall show you, to the right hand, nor to the left."(HNV revised)

In Deuteronomy 33:8-10, it is written: "Of Levi he said, Your Tummim and your Urim are with your godly one, whom you did prove at Massah, with whom you did strive at the waters of Merivah; who said of his father, and of his mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brothers, nor knew he his own children: for they have observed your word, keep your covenant. They shall teach Ya`akov your ordinances, Yisra'el your law: they shall put incense before you, whole burnt offering on your altar."(HNV)

In Malachi 2:4-7, it is written: “"You will know that I have sent this mitzvah to you, that my covenant may be with Levi," says HaShem of Hosts. “My covenant was with him of life and shalom; and I gave them to him who he might be reverent toward me; and he was reverent toward me, and stood in awe of my name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and unrighteousness was not found in his lips. He walked with me in shalom and uprightness, and turned many away from iniquity. For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth; for he is the messenger of HaShem of Hosts."”(HNV revised)

Since one part of the ministry of the priests and Levites is to teach the Torah, it is completely in order to tithe to those organizations who spread Torah teaching, so that they can give a salary to those who are teachers of the Scriptures.

Shabbat shalom,


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