Tag Archives: Tithes

More Temple Laws and Kashrut (N#141-193)

Read the full text here.

Summary: The list of negative (“don’t do”) mitzvot continue with various prohibitions regarding consuming sacrificial offerings and tithes. These could not be consumed outside of Jerusalem, God’s designated holy city. Mitzvah #146 is not to consume the meat of the olah offering at all. This offering was brought to atone for the greatest of sins, and had to be completely burned. Mitzvah #153 is not to eat tevel, produce that has not yet been tithed. Mitzvah #157 is not to break one’s vows. The next three are for a kohen not to marry a zonah, chalalah, or a divorced woman, all three being women that have previously had relations with another man who is likely still alive. There is an additional mitzvah for a kohen gadol not to marry a widow. There are mitzvot for a kohen not to enter the Temple with unkempt hair (#163) or with torn clothing (#164), as well as for a kohen not to go AWOL and leave in the middle of services (#165). The next three mitzvot all deal with prohibitions for kohanim to become impure by proximity to a corpse. This is followed by two mitzvot for any members of the Tribe of Levi not to take possession of any portion of the Holy Land, or any spoils of war. Mitzvah #171 is not to tear out one’s hair in grief when mourning for the dead. The next 22 mitzvot all deal with kosher food, among them to not eat unkosher animals, fish, birds, insects, creeping things and worms, carrion, blood, a certain type of fat called chelev, the sciatic nerve (gid hanashe), meat and dairy mixed together, the fruit of a tree in its first three years (orlah), or hybrid species (kilayim) produced in Israel.

‘Pilgrimage to the Second Jerusalem Temple’ by Alex Levin

Insight: Why is Jerusalem so special? Why was it forbidden to build sacrificial altars anywhere outside Jerusalem, or to consume offerings elsewhere? The reason is that Jerusalem is the centre of the universe, the exact point of the Even HaShetiya, the “Foundation Stone” from which all of Creation began. It is a portal to the spiritual realms, and the place where Heaven and Earth meet. It is the place where Abraham brought Isaac during the Akedah, where Jacob saw the vision of the Heavenly Ladder, and where David established his eternal royal dynasty. Long before this, the city was founded by Shem, the son of Noah, following the Great Flood. Shem later went by the name Melchizedek, described in the Torah as God’s first priest (see Genesis 14). He named the city Shalem, a place of “wholeness” and “peace”, while Abraham later named it Yireh, where God can be seen. So as not to disrespect either tzadik, it was decided in the Heavens to combine these name and call the city Yerushalayim, “Jerusalem”. (For more on this, see ‘The Origins of Jerusalem and the Priesthood’ in Garments of Light, Volume One.)

Mitzvot of Donations and Tithes (P#110-133)

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Summary: Mitzvot #110-112 all involve the purification ceremony for a person who had been afflicted with tzara’at, loosely translated as “leprosy”. Mitzvah #113 is to prepare the Red Heifer, which was used to make a special purifying solution that alone was capable of removing the impurity of death. Mitzvot #114-117 have to do with various “valuations” for one who vows to donate different types of property to the Temple. The 118th mitzvah is to make restitution if a person unintentionally used a sacred object. The next mitzvah is that of neta reva’i, that the fruits of a tree in its fourth year are considered holy. (Recall that fruits in the first three years of a tree’s life are orlah, and forbidden to be consumed.) Mitzvah #120 is pe’ah, for every farmer to leave a corner of his field for the destitute and disadvantaged of society to consume freely. Similarly, all produce that naturally fell to the ground should be left behind for the poor (leket), and any sheaves that may have been forgotten in the field during harvesting should be left there for the poor, too. Finally, there are two mitzvot dealing specifically with leaving behind malformed grape clusters, and fallen grapes, for the destitute and the foreigners. Mitzvot #125-133 all deal with various tithes and gifts to the kohanim and the Temple. To learn more about each of these, please read ‘A Brief Summary of Tithes and Charity’ here.

Citrus Harvest in pre-State Israel

Insight: In many of the mitzvot above, we see how far ahead of its time the Torah was. The Torah takes tremendous care of all members of society, including widows and orphans, the impoverished, the ill, foreigners and strangers in the land, and public servants like Levites and kohanim. The Torah seeks to establish a unified, vibrant community, and ensures that citizens will take care of each other. Indeed, this is one of the key reasons why Jewish communities throughout history have survived and thrived, no matter the time or place. With the Torah as a blueprint, Jewish communities have always made sure to establish charitable institutions to take care of the collective. Moreover, Jews have always been at the forefront of social justice and equality for everyone. In America, for instance, Jews like Samuel Gompers and Louis Brandeis dedicated their lives to improving the wellbeing of all, and helped introduce things like weekends, worker’s benefits, and fair wages. In Germany, it was Lina Morgenstern who introduced the world to kindergartens and soup kitchens. There are countless other examples of Jews who have transformed the world for the better in such ways.