Numbers 16:1 -18:32
No one exempt.
That is the rule in Judaism. Everyone must give tzedakah and everyone must tithe.
This week’s Torah portion, Korach, makes that extremely clear. It describes the obligations of Levites in this regard. The Levites received all of the sacred offering from the Israelite nation intended for God. This includes the tithe of the harvest and new grain as well. “When you receive from the Israelites their tithes, which I have assigned to you as your share, you shall remove from them one-tenth of the tithe as a gift to God (Numbers 18:26). “
The Levites receive these gifts to the Temple in part for God but also to sustain their families as well. The Levites have no land of their own. The other tribes will settle the land of Israel and will be given territories. They will farm and graze their herds and flocks. But the Levites will not be assigned land of their own. Their sole duty is to serve God and will do so in the Tabernacle and later the Temple.
How then do they sustain their families? The tithing system was in part a way to pay for the priesthood and their families and in part for God.
But even the Levites when they receive their share must then in turn take and set aside the best parts for God and from the remaining portion give their own tithe to God and the Temple.
Indeed no one is exempt.
We Jews were the original tithers. This means we are supposed to give up to 10 percent of our income to the upkeep of the Jewish people. Makes Temple membership dues look relatively inexpensive when compared to tithing!!! But if everyone would tithe to the Jewish community we would have the vibrancy we need to really transform lives and the world.
This sacred ideal that everyone gives including the priesthood was extended by the Talmud as well.
Maimonides wrote, “Even a poor person who lives entirely on tzedakah must also give tzedakah to another.” (Mishnah Torah Chapter 7, Line 5)
Even the individual that takes tzedakah from the community must turn and give tzedakah as well. Everyone must be part of the overall solution. This is because the sacred duty to engage in righteous justice is everyone’s obligation. There are no entitlements in the Jewish community. Everyone must give. So while we read Parshat Korach I hope you will consider your giving to the Jewish community, to tzedakah and to support your congregation especially the dues renewal process will begin this coming week. If your not a member of a synagogue now is the time to support the central institution of the Jewish people, however you can. No one is exempt.
3 thoughts on “No One is Exempt”
Ten percent of what? From which line on our federal income tax return? And what gets included in the 10% and what does not? We don’t have a kehilla. I’m always perplexed by this. We pay federal and state taxes, and we pay synagogue dues, and we give voluntary tzedakah to various Jewish and non-Jewish organizations, including the Federation. Is all of this included in the 10%? Or only the amounts given to Jewish groups? One certainly cannot include all taxes. I’ve never been able to come up with a satisfactory answer on my own, and I’ve never read where anyone talked about it.
According to Leviticus 27:30-33 the tithe came from God’s miraculous increase of the land (crops) and animals in herds and flocks. Those are assets, NOT income. The tithe NEVER came from anyone’s income, nor was it money. The Israelite farmers made their income from the SALE OF and/or barter of their crops and animals. In Numbers 18 God commands this tithe be taken to the Levites. No one else is authorized to receive His tithe.
Isn’t this “10% requirement” a holdover from a time when we were an agrarian society? It is interesting how some “requirements” are still deemed applicable, but others are considered outmoded. It’s also important to have an understanding of how tzedakah is being used. Is it being used solely for necessities or is it being used for non-essential purposes? Who decides? More questions than answers…