Tag Archives: Tzara’at

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

Read the full text here.

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.