James Trimm <jstrimm@n...> |
Date: Tue Mar 4, 2003 5:03
Subject: THE TITHE OF YHWH
THE TITHE OF YHWH Now, for the first time I have felt deeply compelled to
write on the subject of the Torah principle of tithing so as to lay out what
the Torah actually says on the subject of tithing for both Jews and non-Jews.
James Scott Trimm
Society for the Advancement of Nazarene Judaism
Box 471; Hurst, TX 76053
I am a bit self conscious about teaching on this topic because of the obvious
conflict of interest. However if Torah teachers do not teach people what
the Torah teaches on the Torah principle of tithing then who will? I will
add that I have been a full time Torah teacher for many years and this is
the first time I have ever taught on this subject with any depth. The reason
I am writing this article is because I have so often being asked questions
about tithing. I hope this paper answers many of those questions.
Much of the information taught on tithing in Christianity is very inaccurate.
For example many Christian preachers who teach that the Torah has been abolished
encourage tithing from their members. This is of course totally in consistent
with their own theology. The only time the tithe is mentioned in the "New
Testament" is in reference to the Torah practice... but according to their
(false) theology we are not obligated to observe the commandments of the
Torah. In fact if in deed the Torah was "bondage" that we needed to be "freed"
from (and it is not) then certainly the requirement to tithe would be part
of that bondage that we were supposedly freed from. So why would Christian
preachers be so inconstant as to encourage tithing from their members? And
what basis do Christian preachers have to receive the tithe?
However how should those of us who understand that the Torah is for all generations
forever treat the topic of tithing? Should we tithe? If so, where do we
send a tithe? In this article I hope to answer many commonly asked questions
about tithing from a Torah perspective.
THE MEANING OF THE WORD "TITHE"
It simply means one tenth. The root of the word is 'EhSehR, which is
the feminine cardinal for the number "ten". One tenth is formed by adding
the letter "mem" or "m" prefix. Thus we have the word, Ma- 'ASaR meaning
"from the tenth." An institution that derives its support from the tithes
of the people is called an Elee-mosy-nary organization. The "Eli" means G-d's,
and "em"osy means tithe plus the adjective suffix, "ary". The "r" in "ary"
assimilates the final "R" of ' Ma-ASaR. Thus the word tithe simply means
IS THE TITHE A TENTH OF NET OR A TENTH OF GROSS ?
I am often asked if the tithe is on the gross or on the net. The answer
is that the tithe is on the net, not on the gross. This is made apparent
from what the Torah tells us concerning the Mosaic Tithe:
22: You shalt truly tithe all the increase of your seed,
that the field brings forth year by year.
Note that in the Mosaic
tithe the tithe was only paid on the "increase" (i.e. the profit margin)
but the planted seed (overhead) was not included, only the increase was tithed
on. In other words the tithe is on the net income not the gross income.
SHOULD NON-JEWS TITHE?
Yes. The Torah records that Abraham tithed in Gen. 14:18-20 before he
was circumcised in Gen. 17 to become the first "Jew" (I am here using the
modern definition and referring to a member of Am-Yisrael). Thus Abraham
was only within the Noachdic Covenant (Gen. 9) when he tithed in Gen. 14
demonstrating that tithing is not a practice restricted to Jews.
THE MOSAIC TITHE
The concept of the Mosaic Tithe (the Tithe of the Mosaic Covenant) is
that Elohim and Israel are partners in the Land of Israel. The Mosaic tithe
is due from all produce from "the Land" (Lev. 27:30-31). Notice that the Mosaic tithe is not simply due on produce from "land" but from "the Land". "The Land" is not just a reference to land in general but to the promised Land of Israel. Since Elohim gave the Land to Israel (Gen. 15:18-21) Israel is obligated to pay Elohim 10% of the increase for the produce taken from His Land
(Lev. 27:30; Deut. 14:22). The Mosaic tithe therefore applies only to agricultural
produce and then only that which is taken from the Land of Israel.
There are actually two tithes in the Mosaic Covenant which were tied to the
seven year cycle of the Land. The first tithe (Masserot) is due every year
for the maintenance of the Levites (Lev. 27:30; Num. 18:21) who then gave
a tenth of the tithe to the High Priest (apparently to be distributed to
the Ahronic Priests (Numb. 18:23-32). The second tithe (Maaser Sheni)
was converted to money and used to make a personal pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
The "pilgrim" could spend this money however he liked on the pilgrimage but
was expected to treat the Levites to a feast as well upon his arrival and
any surplus was given to the Levites (Deut. 14:22-27). Every third year
however the tither stayed home and used this second tithe to feed the needy
and local Levites (Deut. 14:28-29). Thus the Mosaic tithing schedule goes
1. First Tithe: Levites; Second Tithe: Pilgrimage and Levites
2. First Tithe: Levites; Second Tithe: Pilgrimage and Levites
3. First Tithe: Levites; Second Tithe: Feeds the needy and Levites
4. First Tithe: Levites; Second Tithe: Pilgrimage and Levites
5. First Tithe: Levites; Second Tithe: Pilgrimage and Levites
6. First Tithe: Levites; Second Tithe: Feeds the needy and Levites
7. The Sabbath of the land, only the First Tithe was paid on any volunteer crop and on other non-planted produce.
(The first tithe could only be converted into money by paying a 20% penalty
(Lev. 27:31) however the second tithe was generally converted to money as
a matter of course (Deut. 14:25).)
Why did the Levites receive the Mosaic Tithe? This was so that the Levites
could devote themselves to full time Torah Study (2Chron. 31:4-5) so that
they could in turn teach Torah to the people of Israel (Deut. 14:22-23; Ezek.
THE TITHE OF ABRAHAM
Now, having covered the Mosaic Tithe I wish to discuss the tithe of Abraham.
The principle of tithing did not originate in the Mosaic Covenant. Abraham
tithed in Genesis 14 long before the Mosaic Covenant (or even the Abrahamic
Covenent) was entered into. Lets examine Gen. 14 and see what the Torah
tells us about this pre-Mosaic tithe.
18: And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine:
and he was the priest of the most high God.
19: And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram
of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:
20: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered
thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
Who was this Melchizedek and
why did Abraham pay the tithe to him? The answer may be found in the Book
of Jasher (see Joshua 10:13; 2Sam. 1:18) also known as Midrash Sefer HaYashar.
The Book of Jasher contains this same account but with some important additional
11 And Adonizedek king of Jerusalem, the same was Shem,
went out with his men to meet Abram and his people,
with bread and wine, and they remained together
in the valley of Melech.
12 And Adonizedek blessed Abram, and Abram gave him
a tenth from all that he had brought from the spoil of
his enemies, for Adonizedek was a priest before God.
Now according to the Book
of Jasher Abraham tithed to Melchizadek (or Adonizadek) because he was a
"priest". How is it that Melchizadek is called a "priest"? Although Melchizadek
was not a Levite (there were not yet any Levites) we do have a clue in Jasher
as to why he is called a "priest". Jasher reveals the identity of Melchizadek
saying "the same is Shem" (this identity of Melchizadek is also recorded
in the Talmud in b.Ned. 32).
Now this is very important because the Book of Jasher also records the fact that Shem had been Abraham's Torah teacher:
5 And when Abram came out from the cave, he went to Noah
and his son Shem, and he remained with them to learn the
instruction of the Lord and his ways, and no man knew where
Abram was, and Abram served Noah and Shem his son for
a long time.
6 And Abram was in Noah's house thirty-nine years,
and Abram knew the Lord from three years old, and he went
in the ways of the Lord until the day of his death,
as Noah and his son Shem had taught him;
(If you do the "Bible Math" you will find that Noach and Shem died AFTER Abrham was born, a point that surprises some people.)
Note that unlike the Mosaic tithe Abraham's tithe in Gen. 14 was not being
made on agricultural produce but on the "spoils of his enemies" (Jasher 16:12;
also Hebrews 7:4)
Thus Abraham paid the tithe to Shem because Shem had been his personal Torah teacher.
Another example of the pre-Mosaic tithe is the vow Jacob made to tithe
saying to Elohim "and of all that you shall give me I will surely give the
tenth onto you" (Gen. 28:22). Note that Jacob tithed on all that Elohim
had given him and not simply on agricultural produce. In fact Jacob even
tithed from his sons. In the Midrash Rabbab, 70:7-8, page 640; there is
an important story related to Jacob's tithe told by Rabbi Joshua of Sikaan
in the name of his teacher Rabbi Levi:
A certain Curthean (Samaritan) attempted to trap Rabbi Mier
in a question concerning Jacob's vow to HaShem to give a "tithe of all."
"You Jews teach that Jacob gave a tenth of all to HaShem;
yet Jacob had twelve sons: Jacob also said, 'Ephraim and Manasseh
are mine.' That makes fourteen sons of Jacob, yet Jacob gave only
one son to HaShem and that was Levi," spoke the Curthean,
implying that Jacob the Jew had broken his vow to HaShem.
"How," continued the Curthean, "can only one of fourteen sons
be reconciled as a tithe of fourteen sons?"
Rabbi Mier replied, "How many matriarchs of Jacob's sons were
"Four," answered the Curthean," Leah, Rachel, Bilhah and Zilpah."
'True," answered Rabbi Mier. "Then how many were sanctified by
Pid-yon-ha Ben or the Redemption of the Firstborn?
"Four," responded the Curthean.
"True," responded Rabbi Mier. "And what is redeemed as holy
need not be sanctified again. Therefore, since there were four
firstborn sons sanctified by the redemption of the firstborn,
they need not be sanctified by the tithe of Jacob's sons.
Hence, Levi, who was not the firstborn of Leah; was given
by Jacob of his nine remaining sons: Jacob gave more than
one ninth, he gave one tenth of his sons, more than fulfilling
his vow to "give a tenth of all."
apart of Levi, one tenth of Jacob's sons, was to provide a tribe of full
time Torah teachers (as shown above) in the Levitical tribe.
A CONCLUDING DRASH
Now let us make a midrash on these things. If we apply the fourth rule
of Hillel (building of a father from two or more texts) we see that a general
Torah principle emerges as we examine the Mosaic Tithe, Abraham's Tithe and
Jacob's tithe. These passages point to a general Torah principle by which
YHWH provides Torah teachers through the tithes of his people and by which
YHWH's Torah teachers are supported by the tithes of those who benefit from
If you are Jewish, reside in the Land of Israel and
harvest produce from the Land then you are required by the Torah to pay the
Mosaic tithe as described above to Levite Torah teachers.
If you are not Jewish or do not raise produce in the Land of Israel then
you should follow the Torah principle of supporting your Torah teachers through
(c) 2003 James Scott Trimm
Permission to recopy is granted so long as the text is not altered including the contact information.
PS: The complete text of the Book of Jasher (Midrash Sefer HaYashar)
can be found at http://www.nazarene.net/jasher .
|| Re: THE TITHE OF YHWH || Hubner Soivilien
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