Tithes

Question

My question is about tithing. I was taught that there were three tithes. One for the “work” (which would be for the “Levites”; one for our use at the Chag Feasts; and a third tithe every third and sixth year of a 7-year cycle which was used for the poor (widows and orphans).

I have been doing a lot of studying into tithing lately and I see something different in the scriptures. Namely, it looks to me as if there is only one tithe. That tithe is for us to use for the Feasts. A heave offering (amount unspecified) of that tithe is given to the “Levites” (for the work) and they tithe on that tithe (tithe of the tithe). Then every third year, we use the tithe within our gates, i.e., do not travel to the Feast, and share it with the widows and orphans.

This is a simple summary. I would appreciate your input as to how Jews handle tithing, that is, is my current assessment correct, or is there something that I am missing?

7 months

Answers

  1. From the time of the destruction of the Temple the tithing of agricultural produce is no longer Biblical, rather it is Rabbinical. Today we remove a tithe from all produce grown in Israel. The tithe, called Teruma, which was given to a Kohen in Biblical times, is slightly more than one percent of the produce. Nowadays, since we are not in a state of ritual Spiritual Purity, it must be disposed of.

    Another part of the tithe, called Maaser, was given to a member of the Levite Tribe, who like the Kohanim did not have an external source of livelihood. This tithe was ten percent of the remainder of the crop, after having removed the Teruma. Today this tithe is still separated, however, as there is no means of verifying who is truly a Levite, we can consume it ourselves.

    There is another tithe, ten percent, that goes to charity which we take from our income. The laws of tithing income are too complex to go into properly here, but there is a comprehensive book called Maaser Kesafim written by Professor Cyril Domb, that you might find interesting.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team