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Ask the rabbi Family and Society Ma'asser - Tithing

Tenth of the salary

Rabbi David SperlingKislev 14, 5774
534
Question
Are we still required to give a tenth of the salary? There is no longer a tribe of Levi so I was wondering how that works now.
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your interesting question. I am always happy to receive questions about giving charity, as it is such an important mitzvah. It is great to see that you are really looking into this topic. The Torah does talk about giving a tithe to the tribe of the Levis, as well as giving gifts to the Cohens. However those refer to giving a tithe of agricultural produce grown in the land of Israel. These laws are stilled followed today, albeit in an abbreviated fashion due the fact that the full Torah laws cannot be fulfilled without the return of all the people of Israel to our land. We in fact do know who is from the tribe of Levi – and they still perform certain functions in our day and age. For example, when we read the Torah in synagogue the Cohen and Levi of the congregation still receive honors when it comes to reading from the Torah scroll. So, here in Israel, we could theoretically give a tithe of the produce to a Levi. However, as I said, we perform an abbreviated tithing today, where a very small amount of produce (a little more than 1%) is set aside and buried or burnt rather than being given to anyone. If you are interested in learning about this command it is called Trumot and Ma'aserot, and you could learn about it on our website. The command to give a tenth of one's wages to charity is a topic of argument amongst the rabbis. Some say it is a Torah command, and sight the verses where our forefathers pledged a tithe as poof texts. Others though believe that those verses refer to one time pledges, and do not impose a complete obligation on us to do the same. None the less, it is a wide spread Jewish practice to set aside one tenth of one's salary for charity. This is practiced by Jews all over the world, and throughout the ages. The money is mainly used for the poor, but often it is used for any worthy cause, such as Torah education or synagogue upkeep. I hope this helps you understand the topic a little better, and I would be happy to answer any further questions you have. Blessings.
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