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Rabbi Jonathan Ganger
by Published on October 15, 2021

              Avaraham introduced a new concept to the world that has become a staple within Jewish communities. This is the idea that a tenth of one’s earnings should be given towards charity. There are two questions that needs to be answered. First, why is it specifically Abraham who introduced the concept of tithing to the world. Second, why is tithing a unique mitzvah in that it is the only one where one can test G-d so to speak? In other words, there is verse in Deuteronomy 14:22 says ‘tithe you shall tithe which seems to merely state an imperative. Upon closer inspection the Talmud in Shabbat says the verse can be read ‘tithe and you will become wealthy’. Later in the prophets, it explicitly states that G-d tells the Jewish people that they can test him by tithing to see if it will benefit them in the long run. What is it about this mitzvah that makes it amendable to testing, which usually is prohibited and considered disrespectful?

              An interesting insight on this relates to the idea that the world was created in 10 statements. The last statement is about the creation of man.  What makes man ultimately unique is that he has free will. In a sense, G-d’s 10th statement serves as a tithing of control that is ceded to mankind to call the shots.  By control I mean free will. And this free will is the ultimate test for mankind.  We are the only being that is self-created to an extent as opposed to externally created by a force. This responsibility is a challenge but one that allows for the ultimate joy.

              That being the case, the only way to have a free will challenge is to have an ethical standard that one is striving to achieve. If there is no standard, then one does what he wants when he wants- what is the moral dilemma? For this reason, the full activation of free will only occurs when Avraham takes the stage in the world and ushers in a new era. The Talmud says that the world is divided into three epochs- two thousand years of chaos, two thousand years of Torah, and two thousand years of a messianic period. The two thousand years of Torah begin with Abraham.  That introduction of a moral standard into the world activates free will, that which G-d tithed to us. In turn, Abraham tithes back to G-d in response and just like free will is a test for man, the tithe we give to G-d can be a test as well. In short, realize that charity is always a win and realize that free will is G-d’s ultimate gift to mankind.

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