Hebrew | Francais


> > Archive

Shabbat Parashat Ki Tavo 5780

Parashat Hashavua: Holy Maaser

Harav Yosef Carmel

The Torah speaks in our parasha about giving ma’aser (tithes) and declaring that the mitzva was fulfilled properly, especially the time by which the donations needed to be complete (Devarim 26:12-13). It mentions giving the ma’aser to the Levite, the convert, the orphan, and widow; one also is supposed to declare that the “kodesh” (sacred object) was removed from the house.

We will now survey the various donations from the produce, according to year, to understand what tithes we may be referring to. The ma’aser cycle spans seven years, except that during the final year, Shemitta, there are no donations. During all six years, teruma is given to the kohen and is sacred, and the “first ma’aser” goes to the Levite – it is not holy and can be eaten by anyone to whom a Levite gives permission. During years 1, 2, 4, & 5, there is a “second ma’aser” – it is not actually given but is eaten by the farmer’s family inside the walls of Yerushalayim in a state of purity. During years 3 & 6, the second ma’aser is replaced by ma’aser ani – given to the needy (e.g., the aforementioned convert, orphan, and widow). The recipients can eat it anywhere and with anyone. Additionally, fruit that grows in a tree’s first three years is orla and cannot be eaten. In the tree’s fourth year, the fruit is called neta r’vai and it can be eaten only in Yerushalayim in a state of purity – like ma’aser sheni.

Returning to our p’sukim, it is puzzling that the Torah calls the ma’aser by the description kodesh, when ma’aser is, halachically, chulin (mundane). The mishna (Ma’aser Sheni 5:10) explains that “kodesh refers to ma’aser sheni and neta r’vai, which have a special status and restrictions. Indeed, we find the word kodesh used explicitly in the Torah portion dealing with neta r’vai (Vayikra 19:24). The textual problem this identification raises in our parasha is that neta r’vai is not a tithe (it applies to all produce of that tree during that year). Also, neta r’vai and ma’aser sheni are not given to the people the pasuk lists.

The tosefta posits that kodesh in our pasuk refers to challa. Indeed, challa is kodesh; however, it is eaten only by kohanim, not those mentioned in the pasuk. Similar difficulties exist for Rabbeinu Bachyei, who claims the pasuk is talking about teruma, which is also given to kohanim.

After begging forgiveness of all of the above, we suggest the following possibility. One of the manifestations of kedusha in the world is Eretz Yisrael (see mishna, Keilim 1:6). For that reason, the sanctity of land-based mitzvot is tied to what grows here. Am Yisrael is also a sacred nation (see Devarim 7:6). Ma’aser is an “instrument” to create a just society, which unifies and connects various parts of the nation. It ensures a livelihood for educators (i.e., Levites), who dedicate their lives for society’s spiritual welfare. Ma’aser ani is for the poor, to ensure those who have not succeeded in supporting themselves by themselves can also live in dignity. These goals are part of avodat hakodesh (serving goals of sanctity), which turn the Jewish people into a holy nation. It is on these grounds that the donations that go to the Levites and the needy can be called kodesh. May we succeed in having our efforts for unity and justice find expression in sanctity.    

Top of page
Print this page
Send to friend


We daven for a complete and speedy refuah for:

Nir Rephael ben Rachel Bracha
Refael Yitchak ben Chana

Netanel Ilan ben Sheina Tzipora

Netanel ben Sarah Zehava

Meira bat Esther

Yair Menachem ben Yehudit Chana

Rivka Reena bat Gruna Natna

Lillian bat Fortune

Yafa bat Rachel Yente

Eliezer Yosef ben Chana Liba

Ro'i Moshe Elchanan ben Gina Devra

Esther Michal bat Gitel

Yehudit Sarah bat Rachel


Together with all cholei Yisrael


Hemdat Yamim is dedicated

to the memory of:

those who fell in wars

for our homeland


Eretz Hemdah's beloved friends

and Members of

Eretz Hemdah's Amutah


Rav Shlomo Merzel z”l
Iyar 10 5771


Rav Reuven Aberman z"l

Tishrei 9     5776


Mr. Shmuel Shemesh  z"l
Sivan 17 5774


R' Eliyahu Carmel z"l

Rav Carmel's father

Iyar 8    5776


Mrs. Sara Wengrowsky

bat R’ Moshe Zev a”h.

Tamuz 10       5774


Rav Asher Wasserteil z"l

Kislev 9   5769


R'  Meir ben

Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld z"l


Mrs. Sara Brachfeld z"l

Tevet 16 5780


R'  Yaakov ben Abraham & Aisha


Chana bat Yaish & Simcha

Sebbag, z"l


Rav Yisrael Rozen z"l
Cheshvan 13 5778


Rav Benzion Grossman z"l
Tamuz 23    5777


(Rav Moshe Zvi (Milton

Polin z"l

 5778 Tamuz 19       


R' Abraham Klein z"l

Iyar 18 5779


Mrs. Gita Klein z"l

4 Av


R' Yitzchak Eliezer

ben Avraham Mordechai

Jacobson z”l
Elul 15

Mr. Isaac Moinester z"l

Elul 5

Mrs. Doris Moinester a"h

Elul 23 

Hemdat Yamim
is endowed by Les & Ethel Sutker
of Chicago, Illinois
in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker

site by entry.
Eretz Hemdah - Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies, Jerusalem All Rights Reserved | Privacy Policy. | Terms of Use.