Basic Class 8 - Tzedakah and Terumah

Tonight we are going to learn why you get a speeding ticket or a parking ticket or have a fender bender accident or even why you have such expensive medical insurance payments and deductibles? It will also explain why the mortgage interest rate was above the generational average of 1-3% for so many years. Also, why do you need to pay 30 to 40 % of your income to housing costs instead of the more traditional 20%?

Would anyone like to tell me what is Tzedakah?

Now would anyone like to tell me what is Terumah?

Let us start with one statement that you have never heard from a Rabbi asking for a donation until now, and it is important that you realize that i am not a Rabbi so the confusion can still remain if you so choose.

Terumah is tithing. That is nice, but can someone tell me what is tithing?

I will wait for your input prior to moving on.

In the western world tithing is considered charity. Here is what Wikipedia says about tithing: A tithe is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a contribution to a religious organization or compulsory tax to government.

Today, tithes are normally voluntary and paid in cash, checks, or stocks, whereas historically tithes were required and paid in kind, such as agricultural products. Several European countries operate a formal process linked to the tax system allowing some churches to assess tithes.

The Hebrew word that translates as tithing is Terumah תרומה. It comes from the shoresh תרם Tav, Resh, Mem. This shoresh translates as to contribute, to raise funds, to donate, to lift. The word Terumah is usually translated as contribution or offering.

There is a Parasha that has as its Name "Terumah." It is the 7th Parashsa of the Sefer Shemot or Exodus. It is very similar to the Parasha Vayakhel that is translated as "gathered." Moses gathered contribution towards the building of the Tabernacle. Do you see the connection?

The word Tzedakah is very different. It is not a contribution. We will look into Tzedakah below after we go deeper into Terumah.

Traditional Jewish law and practice has included various forms of tithing since ancient times. Orthodox Jews commonly practice ma'aser kesafim (tithing 10% of their income to charity). In modern Israel, Jews continue to follow the laws of agricultural tithing, e.g., ma'aser rishon, terumat ma'aser, and ma'aser sheni. In Christianity, some interpretations of Biblical teachings conclude that although tithing was practiced extensively in the Old Testament, it was never practiced or taught within the first-century Church. Instead, the New Testament scriptures are seen as teaching the concept of "freewill offerings" as a means of supporting the church: 1 Corinthians 16:2, 2 Corinthians 9:7. Also, some of the earliest groups sold everything they had and held the proceeds in common to be used for the furtherance of the Gospel: Acts 2:44-47, Acts 4:34-35. Further, Acts 5:1-20 contains the account of a man and wife (Ananias and Sapphira) who were living in one of these groups. They sold a piece of property and donated only part of the selling price to the church. They claimed to have given the whole amount and immediately fell down and died when confronted by the apostle Peter over their dishonesty.

I apologize for bringing the New Testament into our discussion. Yet i feel it is important to get a sense of how the meanings of the concepts of tithing and charity have changed. Please note that the Hebrew terms used by Wikipedia in the paragraph above are translated in a corrupted way. This will be clarified below.

The source of tithing is from the Parasha of Vayeitzei in the Book of Beraishit or Genesis. In this Parasha, Jacob has the famous dream of the ladder going from earth to heaven. Upon awakening he vows to God to give God 10% of everything he receives if God will fulfill his promise. Has God ever not fulfilled his promises? Some people say not yet? Some people do not even understand the question. Does God fulfill his promises? If the answer is yes, why do i need to give-contribute-donate-tithe 10 % away? I will wait for your input before explaining more.

Wikipedia teaches the following information: The tithe is specifically mentioned in the Books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The tithing system was organized in a 3 year cycle, corresponding to the Shemittah-cycle. Every year, Bikkurim, Terumah, Ma'aser Rishon and Terumat Ma'aser were separated from the grain, wine, and oil (Deuteronomy 14:22). (As regards other fruit and produce, the Biblical requirement to tithe is a source of debate). Unlike other offerings which were restricted to consumption within the Tabernacle, the yearly tithe to the Levites could be consumed anywhere (Numbers 18:31). On years one, two, four and five of the Shemittah-cycle, God commanded the Children of Israel to take a second tithe that was to be brought to the place of the Temple (Deuteronomy 14:23). The owner of the produce was to separate and bring 1/10 of his finished produce to the Old City of Jerusalem after separating Terumah and the first tithe, but if the family lived too far from Jerusalem, the tithe could be redeemed upon coins (Deuteronomy 14:24-25). Then, the Bible required the owner of the redeemed coins to spend the tithe "to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish" (Deuteronomy 14:26). Implicit in the commandment was an obligation to spend the coins on items meant for human consumption. The third year was called "the year of tithing" (Deuteronomy 26:12-14) in which the Israelites set aside 1/10 of the increase of the land, they were to give this tithe to the Levites, strangers, orphans, and widows. These tithes were in reality more like taxes for the people of Israel and were mandatory, not optional giving. This tithe was distributed locally "within thy gates" (Deuteronomy 14:28) to support the Levites and assist the poor.

The Levites, also known as the Tribe of Levi, were descendants of Levi. They were assistants to the Aaronic priests (who were the children of Aaron and, therefore, a subset of the Tribe of Levi) and did not own or inherit a territorial patrimony (Numbers 18:21-28). Their function in society was that of temple functionaries, teachers, and trusted civil servants who supervised the weights and scales and witnessed agreements. The goods donated from the other Israeli tribes were their source of sustenance. They received from "all Israel" a tithe of food or livestock for support, and in turn would set aside a tenth portion of that tithe for the Aaronic priests in Jerusalem.

An additional tithe mentioned in the Book of Leviticus (27:32-33) is the cattle tithe, which is to be sacrificed as a korban at the Temple in Jerusalem.

Now that we have heard the corrupted understanding of the concept of tithing let us learn what the Kabbalah teaches the spiritual law is all about.

There are 10 Sefirot of which the last or bottom Sefirot which is called Malchut (Kingdom) has no Light of its own. These are spiritual laws or systems. It means that 10% of what you receive has no light within it for you. Either you voluntarily donate it away, or it will be taxed away from you by the universe. By the way, the spiritual system returns the voluntary donations to you along with an increased amount.

This is why all of those questions i asked at the beginning of the class happen. This is why you have large unexpected auto repair bills when you do not expect them. This is why you get a parking ticket today and not yesterday. The same for a speeding ticket, and why we live in a generation that has high housing costs relative to the historical norm. We have run out of time to make our donations of tithing voluntarily. Of course, you have the choice to start now and save yourself from these expenses in the future.

The spiritual law is 10 percent of what you receive does not belong to you. It is given to you to share. When you share the 10 % it is returned to you plus an additional amount. When you do not share, the universe will tax it away from you since it does not belong to you. This is the meaning of the spiritual phrase "no light for you."

What does this apply to? EVERYTHING - WITHOUT EXCEPTION. WHATEVER YOU RECEIVE. Money, Time, Gifts, Things, Food, and Most troublesome it applies to children.

Jacob had 12 Sons. He lost one for 22 years - Joseph. Then the Levites became donated to God and working in the Temple which is why they did not receive any part of the Land in Israel. It is as if they are not inheritors of the Land since that Land - the Kingdom has not light for them.

How does this work with children today? Have you heard about the increase in Autistic children? Perhaps, and i stress perhaps, because there are many reincarnation aspects. These children are coming to parents who did not tithe their children in earlier lifetimes. It also applies to children who die in miscarriage, cancer, and other plagues. Please do not spread this information to other people. It can cause tremendous, unnecessary pain. I also hope that i am not causing pain to others in this class now. My mother and one of my daughters have had two miscarriages each. i am sensitive to the pain that this can cause, and i apologize to anyone who is hurt by this information and ask your forgiveness. In any event, this is my truth or another way of saying it is this is truth for me.

Let us now begin to understand Tzedakah and the difference between Tzedakah and Terumah? Over the centuries since the destruction of the Temple, the Rabbis stopped using the term Terumah and started to use the terms Ma'aser which means a tenth or a tenth part. As the different forms of Judaism developed into Reform, Conservative, and Reconstruction as well as others, the Rabbis started to use the term Tzedakah and constantly remind us of a verse in Proverbs which is very true- "Tzedakah saves you from Death."

The Prophet Jeremiah who had the job of forecasting the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem prior to the destruction of the First Temple would pray to HaShem for a truly poor person. Why did he do that? What is a truly poor person?

All living human beings are poor people because we all lack something- be it health, wealth, joy, happiness, or people who were close to us who have left. Whatever it is, we all lack something and that makes us a poor person. Yet not every poor person is a truly poor person.

A poor person according to Jeremiah is someone who has such certainty in the Creator (HaShem) that he us utilized by the Creator to approach certain people and ask for Tzedakah. Who are these certain people? They are people who have been judged with harsh judgment. As a form of mercy HaShem will send a truly poor person to give them an opportunity to go outside of their comfort zone and thus earn some Mercy and have the harsh judgment decree of death removed.

A truly poor person knows that HaShem will provide for them. A truly poor person knows that when they approach someone to ask for Tzedakah they are being sent by the Creator to give that person an opportunity to save his life. A truly poor person does not care if you make the donation/charity or not. He knows that someone will make a donation and give charity so that he will have someplace to sleep and something to eat when he is hungry. Whatever he lacks he knows that HaShem will provide it so he does what HaShem directs him to do. He asks for Tzedakah not caring if someone reaches into their pocket or not.

Tzedakah is a Hebrew word that gets translated as charity. It is in addition to Terumah. It does not replace Terumah. The Halacha or law is that the sum of tithing and Tzedakah can not exceed 20 to 26% of income and/or assets. This is because once someone realizes that there is a harsh judgment decree that includes death, he is willing to give everything away to stay alive. Yet that makes him a burden on society. This is not what HaShem wants. HaShem wants you to go out of your comfort zone so that you earn the merit to have the decree rescinded and received this kind of miracle. When you go out of your comfort zone, HaShem goes outside of natural law which is what is the definition of a miracle.

Tzedakah has a shoresh Tzedek. Tzedek means three things: Justice; righteousness; and also the planet Jupiter. One can begin to get a true sense of the power of the Hebrew language from looking at these two Hebrew words. Tzedakah, or an act of justice and righteousness that goes outside of your comfort zone, is different than the act of tithing or Terumah which is recognizing the lack of Light for you in the Malchut Sefirah. Over the Centuries the Rabbis who were asking for support for their synagogues and other people would tell people give this money and it is Tzedakah since they themselves benefited and are usually not a truly poor person. Supporting your place of prayer is a normal need of the human animal. It is Terumah not Tzedakah.

How can i tell if a request is from a truly poor person?

Does he ask for a specific amount? He is not a truly poor person.

If you give a small amount of money like a penny in the hands of a homeless person, does he say thank you and walk away, or does he start screaming insults and curse words at you? The person who curses and insults you is not a truly poor person.

After you have found a truly poor person, run after him to give him more and more until your life is saved or you reach the maximum of 26%.

Here is another example of the power of the Hebrew Language. The word Ani meaning I is spelled Alef Nun Yood. When permutated into Alef Yood Nun it means nothingness. I or ego is actually nothingness and is what separates you from me and me from you and both of us from HaShem. Now the word Anee spelled Ayin Nun Yood, meaning a poor person, can be permutated into Ayin Yood Nun which means an eye - the organ we see with. This teaches us that to discern a truly poor person one must utilize our eyes to discern the truth about each request for charity or donation.

Just as you can see that permutating a Hebrew word (a Kabbalistic tool which teaches us aspects of the relationships within the words and essences), when we permute our names and utilize the gematria of the letters of our names, we can learn about our own character and personality traits as well as our personal Tikune issues. This is a project that is next on the building of the Yeshshem website. I am approaching you each today as a truly poor person and asking that you commit to a monthly amount of Tzedakah (and i do not use this word lightly or incorrectly) in order to manifest this project to become automated so that anyone can type in their name and have all of the permutations and gematriot and the meanings returned to them on the web page.

To facilitate this i ask that each of you consider the method you would like to utilize to make this Tzadakot (plural of tzedakah). Mail me a check or provide a credit card number which i will process each month and the amount to do this; or provide a monthly PayPal arrangement. It does not matter to me if each or any one of you participate in this endeavor, because i know that when the world is ready, this will be provided either from Yeshshem or someone else since this is part of the prophecy that at the time of Mashiach everyone will know God and the knowledge of God will cover the earth like the ocean covers the earth. The sea is not clear which means that each person will have his own relationship with HaShem. The information provided through your name that you can access by typing your name into an internet site is like the Ocean being knowledgeable of HaShem that each and every person will receive on their own.

Are there any questions? Would anybody like to make an appointment with me to discuss how to implement their Tzedakah to Yeshem?

Here is one more point about tithing the Hebrew language and Kashrut which we will discuss in a few weeks.. The word 'Aser (You shall tithe), can be split into two words (ע' שר). The letter/word Ayin has a gematria of 70. The word Sar means Angelic Cheiftan. Thus Aser translates and reads, "70 angels".

The Torah tells the Children of Israel that they are to receive the Land as a tithing result as explained now. This comes to tell us that that you will take the Ma'aser from them (one tenth of them = 7), but on account of this, you are obligated to separate one tenth of your produce. It is important, when eating produce that comes from the Land of Israel, to ensure that the Ma'aser was separated correctly. The effect of not doing this will forfeit your right to the Land. We will discuss this during our class on "What is Kosher".

Here is another thought provoking teaching from Mystical Paths.

The Roman emperor Tornos Rufus asked Rebbi Akiva, "If HaShem truly loves the poor, why does He not provide them with parnasa?" "To save us from gehinnom," replied Rebbi Akiva. The emperor countered, "On the contrary, giving tzedaka should send you there! Suppose a king imprisons his servant and commands that he not be served food or drink. If someone would disregard the king's bidding and give the prisoner food, wouldn't he get angry?!"

chanoch's Commentary

This is a perfect place to test yourself regarding your human values. Is the Roman Emporor correct? Is Rabbi Akiva correct? What do you think is the correct thing to do? You also have an opportunity to honestly see how easy it is to use logic to prove something is wrong when it is right. Please contemplate this statement.

Rebbi Akiva explained, "Imagine a king imprisons his own son and commands that no food or drink be given to him, but despite his command someone brings the prince some sustenance. When the king hears about this, wouldn't he send this man a gift? Similarly, we are HaShem's children..."

Here is an opportunity for you to determine the difference in your own life between Teruman and Tzedaka. Please read the following paragraph which comes from an email dealing with the energy of Chesed.

Money makes the world go round.

Have you ever approached an Anee (a poor person or a collector) before davening and given him a dollar before he approaches you? Better question may be, why on earth would you do that? Why not wait for him to come to you. If he does, fine, and if not, then you've successfully dodged another one. Right?

The Gemmarah in Bava Basra tells us that R' Elazar used to give a prutah before he would daven. The Gemmarah cites what we read in tehillim, "anee b'tzedek ehchezeh ponechah." The Kav Hayashar explains that the relationship between tzeddakah and teffilah is like that of seasoning and food. Just as the spices bring out the flavor of the food, so too does tzeddakah bring out the tremendous power of tefillah. The Izbitzer tells us that the Rambam in hilchos Matnos Aniyim says that one of the most sublime levels of tzeddakah is to give before the poor man asks. Therefore it is very effective to voluntarily give tzeddakah before a person davens. Then, hopefully the Abishter will act measure for measure and answer our tefillois before we ask. Just as the possuk says "v'hoyoh terem yikraoo v'ani eneh," it will be before they call I will answer. The next time you see a person collecting in shul, (or somewhere else) give him the money first. He's going to catch you anyway ;).

If you do give prior to being asked, is it Tzedakah or Terumah?

Here is a commentary by the Rambam - Maimonides the epitamy of logic and rational thought as portrayed within the Jewish Religion. Actually Maimonides was a Kabbalist and his writings are not taught this way today.

Levels of Charity

The Rambam writes: We are obligated to fill the needs of every poor person according to his previous state. If he does not want to accept tzedaka, we need to find some other means, such as representing it as a gift or a loan.

There are eight levels in giving tzedaka. In descending order, they are:

1 - Giving a man a job so that he is not reliant on others;

2 - Giving without knowing who is the recipient and in such a way that the receiver does not know who is the giver;

3 - Giving in such a way that only the receiver knows who the giver is;

4 - Giving in such a way that only the giver himself knows to whom he is giving;

5 - Giving to the poor before being asked;

6 -Giving after being asked;

7 - Giving less than one is able to, yet with a smile;

8 - Giving in a cheerless manner.

(רמב"ם הל' מתנות עניים פ"ז, פ"י הל' ח-יד)

Again i ask does each one of these apply to tithing and / or Tzedakah?

Here are some final thoughts not on Tzedaka and Tithing but on the shoresh for these subjects.

“He has told you, man, what is good. What does Hashem require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your G-d?“ (Micah 6:8).

What is the meaning of the above verse from the Tanach?

The Chofetz Chaim teaches that the world is built upon the foundation of chesed. All Jews (spiritual people) are linked to each other by their ability to give and their occasional need to take, a dynamic that weaves the Jewish people together in a fabric of compassion. Chesed, in and of itself, is obviously a concept of immeasurable intrinsic value.

Nevertheless, the words of the prophet Micah teach that chesed alone is not the ultimate goal for a Jew. There is an added element — ahavas chesed — the love of chesed, that takes this already powerful vehicle for serving Hashem and fuels its launch into the Heavens.

The Chofetz Chaim explains the difference between performing chesed and loving chesed. One can discern this difference for oneself by examining the thoughts and attitudes that accompany an act of chesed. For instance, when the charity collector knocks on the door, a person may experience a momentary sinking feeling. He may think, “I haven’t got time for this,” or “I haven’t got money to give away.” He knows he would much prefer the collector bypass his house. The contribution he gives will be chesed, but there is no ahavas chesed in this act.

Contrast this with another scenario: There is a family that advertises itself in the local Jewish newspaper as the place for out-of-town charity collectors to come for free room and board. This family considers it a triumph when they hear that knock on the door. They feel just as enthusiastic about the time and money they put into this venture as they might feel about putting the same time and money into a family vacation. In another example, a man commutes from a suburb each day to a major city an hour and a half away. He constantly asks those with relatives or business in that city, “Do you need a ride? Do you need anything delivered?” He looks for his chesed “customers” as aggressively as he would for paying customers.

The simplest way to identify the feeling of ahavas chesed is to think about the way one feels expending time or effort on one’s own family. One wants his son’s bar mitzvah suit to be the very best he can afford — a perfect fit, of good quality and comfortable. One takes pride in seeing his son wear the suit. The parent doesn’t feel that he has lost money in this endeavor; he feels only a sense of gratitude and joy at having been able to give.

This is the attitude Hashem wants each Jew to develop toward chesed. Performing this mitzvah with love and enthusiasm provides it with its ultimate power, far beyond the already potent force of chesed performed out of a sense of obligation.

Here is another teaching about this very important subject. How to love Tzedakah opportunities and how to love Chesed?

A person with enough self-discipline and persistence can force himself to perform an act of chesed, even if he has no real desire to do it. A more difficult task is to force oneself to love chesed when the feeling doesn’t seem to be present in one’s heart. This is a far greater challenge, but it cannot be an impossibility, simply because the Torah never commands the impossible. Therefore, one must assume that within each Jew dwells the capacity to love chesed, even if a person must dig deeply within himself to search for the emotion.

Such a search, conducted by a simple Jew, provided a lifetime of inspiration for the chassidic rebbe, Rabbi Bunim of Pshis’che. Rabbi Bunim spent his early years as a businessman. In his constant business travels, he used every interaction as a means to bring Jews closer to Hashem. On one such journey, he stopped at an inn on a cold, stormy night. The Jewish innkeeper found in Rabbi Bunim a sympathetic ear for his tale of a failing business. The peasants no longer came to him, vats of liquor sat untouched in the basement and the landlord was growing impatient for the rent. Rabbi Bunim spoke with the man for awhile, and then sat down to learn.

In the middle of the night, there was a loud knock on the door. A traveler, drenched and freezing, begged the innkeeper to admit him, even though he had no money with which to pay. The innkeeper sighed at his misfortune — he finally had a customer, but even this wouldn’t bring him any money. Nevertheless, he helped the traveler. He let him in, gave him a change of clothing and a room for the night. The traveler, however, was still shivering. “Could you bring me some vodka, please?” he asked. “I don’t have any money, but I’m so cold.”

The innkeeper went to the basement to tap into his vodka supply for the first time in weeks — once again, for no profit. He didn’t notice that Rabbi Bunim was there, watching him. What the rabbi saw, however, struck him so powerfully that he told of the scene for the rest of his life. The innkeeper poured a cup of vodka, then shook his head firmly and smashed the cup to the floor. Once, twice, three times, four times he repeated this procedure, oblivious to the sin of wastefulness he was committing. Finally, upon pouring the fifth cup, he happily proclaimed, “Now!” and brought the vodka to his guest.

Rabbi Bunim asked the innkeeper to explain his strange behavior. The explanation was touchingly simple. He couldn’t serve the guest a drink he had poured with disappointment and resentment in his heart. He knew he had been handed a golden mitzvah — a chance to revive a shivering, hungry, poor man, yet his financial worries were clouding his ability to appreciate this gift. He tried and tried again, until he reached the vein of ahavas chesed that was within him. Then, satisfied that he was doing his act of kindness with a full heart, he brought the man his drink.

Are there any Questions?