1500th Edition!

The Torah mandates that produce that is grown in the land of Israel is subject to certain tithes. A percentage is given to a Kohain; after that, a tenth is given to a Levite. The Levite in turn gives a percentage of his gift to a Kohain. Additionally, dependent on the year of the Sabbatical cycle, an additional tenth is either given to the poor, or a tenth of the produce is to be consumed in the city of Jerusalem.

During the harvest, certain loose or forgotten strands or bundles of wheat are to be left for the poor. A portion of the unharvested field is also left for the poor.

When one does the math, the amount that is given away from his produce, is over twenty percent.

The Torah makes the following statement, “What a man gives to a Kohain shall be his.”

The question is, isn’t this obvious? After all, the Torah mandates us to give it to the Kohain.

Rashi explains by quoting the Talmud, “What a man gives to a Kohain – ‘shall be his’” – is not referring to the Kohain. Rather, it is referring to the person who is giving. The one who gives will be blessed for doing the deed, with lots of money!

Commentators further explain that when one amasses wealth, there is personal financial security that is felt and experienced. However, we know that physical wealth is only temporary and with one’s passing it remains behind – thus it does not remain his forever.

However, when one uses his resources for spiritual endeavors, towards Mitzvos and Tzadakah, whatever he had spent – is his forever. It becomes attached to his soul and comes along with him to the World to Come – forever.

Everyone is faced with challenges, whether they are blessed with wealth, they just make ends meet, or they can’t make ends meet.

Recently, in the Talmud Gittin we are studying with the Daf Yomi cycle, I came across a statement of the sages based on a scriptural verse. “Whether a person is living meagerly and certainly if he is wealthy, he should ‘shear’ from his resources and give Tzadaka. With this, he will be protected if he is destined for purgatory.”

The Talmud asks why the verse uses the word ‘shear’ when it refers to the Mitzvah of Tzadaka. The Talmud explains this with an allegory of two lambs that are crossing a body of water, one had its wool shorn and the other had not been shorn. The one that is shorn passes through, while the one which is not, does not make it.

So too, no matter what financial situation one is in, if he gave Tzadakah and ‘sheared,’ during his life, it becomes his ticket to bypass the judgement of Gehenom.

The Talmud continues and explains that even the poorest person should give Tzadaka, and in this merit he will be blessed with riches.

In this week’s portion, the Torah records the mitzvah of the Kohanim – Priests ― blessing the Jewish nation. Our Sages teach us that when the Kohanim express the fifteen words of the blessing they are acting as the conduit through which G-d Himself is bestowing the blessing.

The priestly blessing begins with a blessing for prosperity and that G-d should protect us.

G-d chose the Kohanim, who are the recipients of the tithes and gifts of the people, to be the ones who bestow the blessings of prosperity so that when one presents the Kohain with the gifts he will give them eagerly and ungrudgingly for he will realize that his blessing came as a result of the Kohain’s blessing!

I came across an interesting question. If G-d is the One who is bestowing the blessing, why does He do it through human beings, the Kohanim, and not do it Himself?

An answer offered is that G-d did this benevolently, in order that everyone be blessed without scrutiny. If G-d would directly bestow the blessing from His vantage point of knowing the private faults of people, He may have to hold back from giving a blessing to those who are rebellious towards Him.

G-d with His care and love towards us, chose the Kohanim to be the instrument through which He offers His blessing to us so that with the Kohain’s lack of knowledge of the hidden faults of the congregation, he lovingly, eagerly and full heartedly conveys all of G-d’s blessings to the congregation. This way each and every Jew is blessed!