Ki Tavo—The Sacred Portion

When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year . . . then you shall declare before the LORD your God: “I have removed the sacred portion from the house, and I have given it to the Levites, the resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows,  just as you commanded  me.”  (Deut 26:12-13)

Deuteronomy’s primary concern with the tithe is to make it the occasion for festival celebrations that, among other things, bind the people throughout Judea to the city of Jerusalem (14:22-26). But every third and sixth year, the tithe is distributed to the poor (in the seventh year, the land lies fallow; then the cycle starts again).

This is one of the few places in Torah where words are prescribed for the common person to recite. It is a lot easier for me to identify with this than the elaborate ceremony that takes place on Mts. Ebal and Gerizim.  Yet in some ways, we can see this as a miniature, domestic version of that ritual. It reinforces the need for the individual to be careful and scrupulous in a matter of individual conscience (no-one else can know what the tithe comes to, nor enforce it).  It also reinforces the intention of helping the poor as the tithe is set aside.

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