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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Re'e

Parashat Re'e

Ma'aser Sheni

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The mitzvah of separating ma'aser sheni (second-tithe) is described in this week's parashah. Unlike teruma which is given to the Kohen, ma'aser rishon which is given to the Levi, leket, shikchah, pe'ah and ma’aser ani, which are given to the poor, ma'aser sheni is for me, the regular Yisrael, to eat. In the first, second, fourth and fifth years of the seven year Shemita cycle, each person is to set aside a tenth of his produce, bring it to Jerusalem and eat it there in the Holy City. This mitzvah guarantees that every single Jew visits the Beit HaMikdash on a regular basis and takes home with him the lessons and experience of appearing before God.

If, however, a person is too far away from Jerusalem and cannot bring his produce to the Bet HaMikdash, he may exchange the produce for cash and then purchase food with that money in Jerusalem. As the Torah states: "And if the way is too long for you ... because the place (hamakom) is too far away from you..." (Devarim 14:24)

Rabbi Yaakov Kranz, otherwise known as the Dubner Maggid, notes that the Torah seems to be repeating itself: "the way is too long... because the place (hamakom) is too far." Aren’t these the same thing? He explains that hamakom refers not to the physical place, but to God. (For example, God is referred to as HaMakom, "the place," in the wish given a mourner, "HaMakom yenachem otkha betoch she'ar avalei Tzion viYerushalayim.") Why is the way too long? Because we are too far away from HaMakom, from God. When we are far from Him, even a small effort is too difficult for us. The Halakhah allows a person to redeem the produce for cash even in close proximity as long as he hasn't yet entered the gates of Jerusalem. A person can live next door to the Beit HaMikdash and yet be far away while another can live even far away and yet be close to HaMakom - close to God.

We must strive to be both close and "near" to the Makom.

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