Sunday, September 02, 2007

DVAR TORAH S2: Ki Tavo (10% Off!)

Ki Tavo contains some of the least famous words of the most observed holiday: Arami Oved Avi. It also contains the laws of tithing. Let's take a look for a moment at the Jewish calendaring system. One way years are grouped are in cycles of seven, that every seventh year is the Sabbatical year. On the other six years we are commanded to give certain tithes, tithe meaning one-tenth of our produce. On years 1, 2, 4, and 5 we are commanded to give to the Levite, our brothers who have not been assigned a portion in the land of Israel and are dependent on our kindness, an obligatory act known as Maaser Rishon. This is in addition to Trumah, the giving of our produce to a Kohen. On the third and sixth years, the latter of which is the year we are currently ending, we are commanded to give Maaser Sheni, also known as Maaser Oni, Tithe to the Poor. Ten percent of all we make is to go t0 the poor, the widow, the orphan, the stranger. Even the poorest person had to give ten percent. How does this work today?

This week in Rabbinical School orientation we studied the social contract an ancient king had with his subjects. The king is described as "great", "awesome" "mighty" "powerful". The king would then follow this with "therefore he has absolute power of life and death over you". This is true of God, the King of kings of kings, but God's description continues instead with "defender of orphans, champion of widows, maker of justice and righteousness". The wealthy must not be satiated just by his wealth, but must literally share the wealth. For so as long as there are hungry people in Israel we cannot stand idly by the blood of our neighbors. Give a hoot, give tzedekah.

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