Tithe After Tithe: Ki Tavo 2020

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: When you make donations, are you motivated more by a sense of obligation or a sense of kindness? Should it matter what your motivations are?

In the Torah, as well as Judaism in general, giving to those less fortunate is considered a law first and foremost:

The Pitch: “When you have set aside in full the tenth part of your yield – in the third year, the year of the tithe – and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat their fill in your settlements …” – Deuteronomy 26:12

Swing #1: “A.A. Anderson recalls that the widows, orphans, and foreigners share in the tithes and in the offerings at the annual festivals. They are shown kindness according to the principle, ‘Share because you have already received (cf. Psalms 142:7).’” – Andre LaCocque & Paul Ricoeur, Thinking Biblically: Exegetical & Hermeneutical Studies 195

Swing #2: “And Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Even [bringing it into the] courtyard determines [its status as having completed the production process and obligates the produce to be tithed,] as it is written [in the confession of the tithes: ‘And I have given to the Levite, the stranger, the orphan and the widow,] and they shall eat in your gates and be satisfied.’” – BT Berakhot 35b

Swing #3: “Give them sufficient to satisfy them. From here [the Rabbis] derived the law: one must give the poor in the barn no less than half a kab of wheat or a kab of barley.” – Rashi

Late-Inning Questions: While our commentators concur with the importance of tithing, the reasons and methods are in question. Can our obligation to give be quantified? When do we know when we’ve given enough?

On-Deck at Temple Beth Tzedek: We’re excited to kick off the High Holiday season with Selihot on Saturday night, September 12th. Join us for a Zoom discussion at 9pm with Rabbi Rosenbaum and Congregation Shir Shalom’s Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein at 9pm (register here), and then switch to the TBT livestream at 10pm for services with Cantor Spindler and Rabbi Rosenbaum (follow along with the Selihot book here).

The Big Inning at the End: Since we have been speaking of generous souls, it is appropriate to note the death this week of Tom Seaver, an all-time great pitcher who also became known for his generous and kind character. You didn’t have to be a Mets or Reds fan to know that Seaver was special both on and off the field.

Shabbat Shalom!