Torah This Week
Welcome to Torah This Week, where you will find thoughts and reflections by CLAL faculty and associates on the Torah portion of the week.
(Exodus 35:1 - 38:20)
"Take from among you gifts to the Lord," Moses instructs the Jews in the name of God. "Everyone whose heart so moves him shall bring them" (Exodus 35:5). When it comes to giving gifts to God--in this case for the building of a tabernacle--God wants people to donate voluntarily. God does not, after all, need gifts. When it comes to donations for the poor, however, the Torah legislates that every third year one put aside a tenth of one's income, and that during the other two years, at harvest time, "When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not pick your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and the stranger" (Leviticus 19:9 - 10).
God is self-sufficient; the poor are not. For this reason, the Torah decrees that donations to the poor are not voluntary. They are an obligatory tax imposed on all Jews. Contemporary Jewish law obligates Jews to give ten percent of their net income to charity. Those who cannot afford to do so should give as near to ten percent as possible.
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