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Ask the rabbi Family and Society Ma'asser - Tithing

Maaser today

Rabbi David SperlingIyyar 1, 5773
453
Question
One of the Rabbis on the site wrote here in response [to a questioner] to the fact that the Tora and Talmud doesn’t discreetly deal with what a city person outside of ancient Israel should do about giving money to charity. Here is- after acknowledging the desideratum- the last part of the rabbis answer: "However there is a Mitzvah of Tzedakah that every Jew has to give charity to the poor – with the intention to bring him back on his feet financially, as the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch teach." I wonder if the Talmud deals with a halakha to give 10-20 percent of our (city folk) money to charity? And if not, why not? And if not, then is it a halakha at all? I’d like to think that this very important part of a pious person’s life today (we aren’t farmers) is quantified somewhere in Talmud and not left to later rabbis. Shouldn’t there be at least one daf on this in the Talmud? If not, doesn’t that make you uncomfortable? And if not, why not? Surely the case must have come up of a city person (like me, and you!) inquiring in Babylonia about what he should do since he’s not a farmer; and since he’s not in ancient Israel? You’d think there’d be a whole tractate on this in Bab. Talmud(perhaps not in the Jerusalem Talmud).
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your question. I looked at the original response you are referring to, and (if I found the right one) it seems that the question there was about the difference between the Torah command to give a tithe of one's produce, and the mitzvah of charity in general. The Rabbi answered that the command to give a tithe applies to the produce grown in the Land of Israel, whilst the command of charity applies to giving money to the poor, and is in effect at all times and places. The Talmud certainly talks (at length) about the important command to give charity, and this is codified (as the Rabbi wrote in his answer) by the Rambam and the Code of Jewish Law. There are many books by rabbis of our generation (even in English) that deal extensively with just this mitzvah. So you are correct in thinking that charity is a central part of a Jew's life, and I am sure that the answering Rabbi was not insinuating anything to the contrary. He was, however, pointing out that the command to take a tithe from produce is a separate command that not only serves the purpose of providing for the poor, but is part of the holy service of offerings made in the Temple. And, if I may add, it is also connected to the unique holiness of the Land of Israel. May we be blessed to be able to provide for the poor - as well as partake of the mitzvah of tithing the holy produce of the Land of Israel. Blessings.
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