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Tuesday
Aug152017

MOSHIACH IS IN THE FIELD

TITHING

The commandant to tithe ten percent of our produce in the Land of Israel is taken from the verse, “Take a tithe of all the seed crops that come forth in the field each year.” This refers specifically to the ten percent of our produce that we must consume in Jerusalem.

This tithe was in addition to the approximately two percent of our produce that must be given to the Kohen, and the ten percent we must give to the Levite.

However, our Sages also applied this commandment to the tithing of our earnings, wherever we live, which we are to give to the poor and needy.

When we look back to the Torah’s preceding verses, we read of the commandments to keep kosher, which culminate with the admonition never to “cook a kid in the milk of its mother.”

According to our oral tradition, this commandment, which appears three times in the Torah, alludes to three separate prohibitions concerning mixtures of milk and meat: we may not cook meat with milk, consume it or derive any benefit from it, such as feeding it to our animals.

WHAT’S THE CONNECTION BETWEEN KEEPING KOSHER AND TITHING?

A question arises about the juxtaposition of these two verses. What is the connection between the prohibition against mixing milk and meat and the commandment to tithe?

Another question: Why does the Torah add that the produce from which we must tithe is “in the field?” Isn’t it obvious that crops come from the field?

The Tosafos commentary on the Talmud (Taanis 9) provides a novel way of translating this verse which answers the question about the field.

This is how he translates this verse:

“Take a tithe of all the seed crops,” and if you do not, then your produce will go to the one who goes out into the field, namely, the wicked Esau who, in Genesis, is described as “the man of the field.”

In other words, the consequence of Jewish people not tithing is that their earnings will be appropriated by their heathen enemies.

BANKING SPIRITUAL ENERGY

The above can be understood on a spiritual level as well.

When a Jew serves G-d, he or she generates energy which gets stored in a spiritual bank. At present, most of us do not appreciate what we’ve generated and do not have the wherewithal to make a withdrawal from this bank.

Only the great tzaddikim, the most righteous among us, have the capacity to enjoy the spiritual benefits of their observance of the Mitzvos in this pre-Redemption period. However, every now and then we can make small withdrawals. These are the moments of spiritual inspiration which we experience periodically. However, the spiritual principal remains intact for the future Messianic Age, when we will be able to enjoy all of what we’ve accomplished in the present.

When we engage in unholy activities we also generate energy but it is diverted to the forces of impurity. Our transgressions strengthen the “field” dominated by Esau, by the forces of impurity. Rather than depositing our generated resources into our own spiritual “bank account,” we deposit that capital in the bank account of the “other side” of holiness.

KASHRUS AND TITHING: TWIN LIBERATING POWERS

The laws of kashrus and tzedakah-tithing are emblematic of these two forms of making deposits.

The Hebrew word for food that we may eat is kasher. According to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson (the Rebbe’s father, whose yahrtzait we just observed on the 20th of Av), the word kasher is an acronym for: K’motzei shalal rav. These three words were said by King David in the Psalm 119 verse: “I rejoice over Your word, as one who finds vast spoils.”

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak explains that when a Jew eats kosher food, he or she has the capacity to extract from it incredible spiritual treasures that are held “captive” in the food. All physical objects possess phenomenal spiritual energy, which the Kabbalists tell us come from the powerful spiritual world of Tohu.

It follows then, that when the food is not kosher the Tohu energy flows into “Esau’s” bank account. The only way we can liberate the diverted energy and return it to its rightful place is through sincere Teshuva-repentance or return. Once we realize that we’ve strayed and are motivated to return to G-d with even greater devotion than before we sinned, we can redirect that energy back into the realm of holiness where all past sins are converted into Mitzvos.

While this is true of all the laws of Kashrus, it is especially true with respect to the laws against mixing milk and meat. Milk and meat taken by themselves are inherently kosher. Yet, when they are mixed, every molecule of the mixture is transformed into a forbidden substance. This mixture is absolutely unredeemable. It cannot be used for any purpose at all.

Even though forbidden, this mixture contains powerful sparks of divine energy. When devoured by a Jew, these sparks are diverted into the wrong place and wreak havoc on the balance between good and evil in the world. As a consequence, the “Esaus” of the world become more energized.

WINNING THE MEGA LOTTERY

When a Jew resists temptation and refrains from consuming forbidden food, he or she can divert the deeply embedded treasure into his or her “bank account” and win the spiritual equivalent of a Mega Lottery.

There is another area in which the idea of finding this great treasure comes into play.

According to the Alter Rebbe, as written in his Tanya, when a Jew gives tzedakah, the effects are unparalleled. Every Mitzvah that involves a physical action and/or a physical object liberates hidden treasures. These treasures are deposited in the spiritual account of the one who performs the Mitzvah. However, performing an act of tzedakah is unique among Mitzvos. As the Alter Rebbe explains, no Mitzvah involves as much of the physical world as tzedakah. Tzedakah generally involves giving from our financial resources earned through physical exertion and hard work. When we give tzedakah we liberate the sparks, i.e., the spiritual treasures, embedded in the physical world in ways that are unmatched by other Mitzvos.

This is one way of understanding the statement of our Sages that giving tzedakah brings Redemption. Tzedakah is our way of redeeming hidden treasures and is therefore the practice most suited to bring about Redemption to the world.

Tzedakah in this broader sense is what our Sages had in mind when they said, “G-d performed tzedakah with Israel that he dispersed them among the nations.” Our dispersion into exile came with the challenge to extract the hidden treasures found throughout the world.

READY TO WITHDRAW FROM OUR BANK ACCOUNT

The Rebbe has famously declared that the process of liberating the sparks has concluded. Now we have entered the phase of preparing ourselves to welcome Moshiach.

What does this mean in terms of the treasures? The answer is that we are approaching the time when we can begin to withdraw the accumulated spiritual wealth of thousands of years of Mitzvah observance.

There is also another change. We no longer need to avoid the diversion of spiritual resources into the field where “Esau” dominates. Instead, the world is poised to see the transformation of Esau and the field. We have exposed the world to the Seven Noachide Commandments that were given to all humankind. That means the entire world will experience the unfolding of the Messianic drama. The accumulated wealth, both material and spiritual, will engulf the world. In Maimonides’ words: “At that time there will be no more war, etc., and all the delights of the earth will be as plentiful as the dust of the earth, and the entire world will be preoccupied with knowing G-d.”

RETRANSLATION

We can now retranslate the original verse with a slight twist to the approach of the Tosafists:

“Take a tithe of all the seed crops,” and perform the Mitzvah of Tzedakah in all its forms. If you do, then your produce, i.e., your spiritual treasures that you will have accumulated, will even extend to the one who goes out into the field, namely the rehabilitated and transformed Esau who, in Genesis, is described as “the man of the field.”

THE KING IS IN THE FIELD!

There is another way of looking at the idea of “the field” in relation to Tzedakah.

We are now entering the month of Elul, the final month of the Hebrew year, when we are expected to prepare for the New Year. The Alter Rebbe questions the fact that, although there are no Holidays in this month, Elul is still considered most auspicious. The Alter Rebbe explains that during Elul the “King is in the field.” This means that G-d is readily accessible to all of us even as we are dwelling in the field, i.e., in our most mundane state. G-d meets us with a cheerful countenance and we can greet Him and approach Him with our requests. There is no need for protocol, appointments, properly respectful attire, etc. G-d is open to all of us, just the way we are!

In addition to this being Elul, the last month of this year of 5777, we are now in the greater Elul, the last leg of this phase of history. Moshiach, our human king and leader, is in the field. He is close to us and, as we meet him in the field, we have the power to transform it into a garden and palace.

We can now retranslate the original verse with yet a third twist:

“Take a tithe of all the seed crops,” i.e., perform the Mitzvah of Tzedakah in all of its forms. And if you do, then your produce, i.e., your spiritual treasures that you have accumulated, will facilitate the King out in the field to appear and introduce us to the age when all the treasures will be revealed!

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