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B5. Setting Aside Part of Our Increase for the Poor    [Make a Comment]

We are to set aside and give a part of our increase to the poor.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed is He):

Leviticus 19:9-10 (Maimonides RP120, RP123, RP124; Meir ML1-4, ML8 ML9; Chinuch C216-C223)
When you harvest the ripe crops produced in your land, don't harvest all the way to corners of your field, and don't gather the ears of grain left by the harvesters. Likewise, don't gather the grapes left on the vine or fallen on the ground after harvest; leave them for the poor and the foreigner; I am ADONAI your God.

Leviticus 23:22 (Maimonides RP121; Meir ML6, ML7)
When you harvest the ripe crops produced in your land, don't harvest all the way to the corners of your field, and don't gather the ears of grain left by the harvesters; leave them for the poor and the foreigner; I am ADONAI your God.

Deuteronomy 24:20-22 (Maimonides RN212)
When you beat your olive tree, you are not to go back over the branches again; the olives that are left will be for the foreigner, the orphan and the widow. When you gather the grapes from your vineyard, you are not to return and pick grapes a second time; what is left will be for the foreigner, the orphan and the widow. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt. That is why I am ordering you to do this.

Acts 11:27-30
During this time, some prophets came down from Yerushalayim to Antioch; and one of them named Agav stood up and through the Spirit predicted that there was going to be a severe famine throughout the Roman Empire. (It took place while Claudius was Emperor.) So the talmidim decided to provide relief to the brothers living in Y'hudah, each according to his means; and they did it, sending their contribution to the elders in the care of Bar-Nabba and Sha'ul.

1 Corinthians 16:2
Every week, on Motza'ei-Shabbat, each of you should set some money aside, according to his resources, and save it up; so that when I come I won't have to do fundraising.

2 Corinthians 9:7
Each should give according to what he has decided in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

James 1:27
The religious observance that God the Father considers pure and faultless is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being contaminated by the world.

The requirement that God's people give to the poor (tzedakah) is found throughout the Bible, and more about it is dealt with in this book in Mitzvot # B3 and # B4. At the time of Moses, Israel was an agrarian society, so a major way of providing for the poor was by leaving a portion of each field and vineyard unharvested and by not picking up grapes or grain that fell to the ground. By the time of Yeshua, Israel was still agricultural, but was already moving toward using money for giving tzedakah. Today, most of the world's population does not live in a farm environment and money wages has largely replaced being paid for our work in produce and goods. Nevertheless, the principle of the Mosaic commandments to set aside a part of our increase for the poor is still the will of God.

The first Corinthian Scripture cited above makes mention of setting aside money for the Apostle Sha'ul; it is relevant here because Sha'ul was poor and needed that kind of support. In addition to it being required by Torah, giving tzedakah is a time-honored practice in Jewish homes where a tzedakah box for spare coins is often in plain view. It is my opinion that giving tzedakah should always be over and above other giving that is required of us, including our tithes and other offerings, and it should be noted that, according to Torah, part of the tithe must also be set aside for the poor.

Commentators:
Maimonides', Meir's, and HaChinuch's commentaries on their respective mitzvot are entirely from the perspective of agriculture in the Land of Israel.

NCLA: JMm JFm KMm KFm GMm GFm

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