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    Tithes & taxes – Re’eh

    Giving tithes is an essential part of Torah legislation. This week’s sidra expounds ma’aser sheni, the second tithe, which is taken to Jerusalem and used there.

    Rabbi Akiva remarks, “Tithes are a fence for wealth” (Avot 3:17): i.e. paying tithes costs you, but it does not make you poorer. There is a proverbial saying, asser bish’vil shetitasher, “Give tithes and you will be wealthy” (Shabbat 119a; Ta’anit 9a).

    Hertz remarks, “Allocating to religious and charitable purposes the ordained portion, does not reduce a man’s wealth. It makes the owner conscious that his property is due to a Divine Providence, and this feeling saves him from squandering his possessions”.

    Today the tithes are used for the upkeep of religious and philanthropic institutions and they enable sacred causes and needy people to be supported. But as Rabbi Akiva says, giving brings benefit to the giver as well.

    Emanuel Feldman writes, “The regular practice of giving actually transforms us from selfish creatures into selfless ones. Even if at first we give tzedakah not from the noblest of motives, its regular exercise creates a subtle change within us. Over time we become less self-centred and more other-centred.

    “Another great benefit – we become happier, more satisfied individuals. The more we give, the more we receive, materialistically and emotionally.”

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