Messianic Education Trust
(Deut 11:26 - 16:17)

D'varim/Deuteronomy 14:23   And you shall eat, before the L-rd your G-d ... the tithe of your grain, your new wine and your new oil

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The book of Vayikra is the first to tell us that there are multiple tithes to be taken from the harvest of the land: "All tithes from the land, whether seed from the ground or fruit from the tree, are the L-RD's; they are holy to the L-RD" (Vayikra 27:30, JPS). The one in our text above is known as , the second tithe. The first tithe is described in the book of B'Midbar, when Moshe tells the Levites, "When you receive from the Israelites their tithes" (B'Midbar 18:26, JPS) and then adds, "You and your households may eat it anywhere" (v. 31, JPS). We know that the tithe Moshe is talking about now must be different for two reasons: firstly, it is to be eaten by the giver, not the Levites; and, secondly, it must be eaten before The Name ...

HaShem: literally, Hebrew for 'The Name' - an allusion used to avoid pronouncing the Tetragrammaton, the so-called 'ineffable' name of G–d
HaShem. Biblically, "before HaShem" means within or near the Sanctuary, wherever it might be; rabbinically, it must be within the environs of Jerusalem. Jeffrey Tigay points out that no specific time is specified in this instruction; "The regular pilgrimage festivals were probably the most convenient occasion, though farmers probably made private pilgrimages at other times, too."

- a noun from the root , to multiply or be increased (Davidson) - means corn or grain, although it used by metonymically for 'bread' in "Where is bread and wine?" (Lamentations 2:12, NRSV)). Here, the word is used to apply to the five well-known species of grain: wheat, barley, spelt, rye and oats listed in the Mishnah. Chazal explain that they are all subject to the rules of khallah and tithing, that their quantities combine when working out amounts of dough, that the new season's crop may not be reaped before Pesach and may not be consumed until after the waving of the sheaf - the bringing of the Early Firstfruits offering - during the week of Unleavened bread (m. Khallah 1:1-2).

from the root , to take, possess or inherit (Davidson) - is different from the word , which means simply 'wine', meaning specifically new wine or must. Similarly, - a noun from the root , to make or press out oil (Davidson) - is different from the more common , which has a range of meanings from "fatness, oil or fertility", and carries especially the sense of newly pressed oil. Both words are used together as an expression of abundance: "The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil" (Joel 2:24, NIV). This strong agricultural processing connection causes the Who Is ...

Ramban: Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman of Gerona or Nachmanides (1194-1270 CE), Spanish rabbi, author and physician; defended Judaism in the Christian debates in Barcelona before making aliyah
Ramban to comment that, "this applies exclusively to to corn, wine and oil. The plain meaning of Scripture is this: that even tithes of olives and grapes are not [required] by law of the Torah until they have been made into wine and oil."

This is all very interesting, however, but doesn't explain why this tithe of agricultural produce is to be brought to the Sanctuary and eaten "before HaShem". The last part of the verse supplies the answer: "so that you may learn to revere the L-RD your G-d forever" (D'varim 14:23, JPS). This is picked up by many of the commentators, for example, Who Is ...

Chizkuni: Rabbi Hezekiah ben Manoah (13th century), French rabbi and exegete; his commentary on the Torah was written about 1240 in memory of his father, based principally on Rashi, but using about 20 other sources
Chizkuni echoes: "so that you may become accustomed to fear the L-rd". Most commentators go further, though, to explore why eating together at the Sanctuary will teach people to revere HaShem our G-d. Although the Who Is ...

The Rashbam: Rabbi Samuel ben Asher (1085-1174 CE), a grandson of Rashi; lived in Northern France; worked from the plain meaning of the Hebrew text even when this contradicted established rabbinic interpretaton
Rashbam suggests, "when you see the place of the Shekhinah", Who Is ...

Abraham Ibn Ezra: (1089-1167 CE), born in Tudela, Spain; died in the South of France after wandering all around the shores of the Mediterranean and England; a philosopher, astronomer, doctor, poet and linguist; wrote a Hebrew grammar and a commentary on the Bible
Ibn Ezra adds, "you must eat them at the holy site because that is where they will teach you to revere the L-rd. A second sense would be 'so that you may be trained'." Who is going to provide this training? The Who Is ...

Sforno: Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (1470-1550 CE), Italian rabbi, philosopher and physician; born in Cesena, he went to Rome to study medicine; left in 1525 and after some years of travel, settled in Bologna where he founded a yeshiva which he conducted until his death
Sforno offers an answer: "Because in that place chosen for the Holy Temple, the Great Court (the Sanhedrin) will be present to achieve understanding and teach." A footnote adds, "The purpose of the second tithe is to bring the people to the sanctuary and expose them to the teaching of the priests and Levites, to fulfil the verse, 'The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the L-RD" (Psalm 111:10, JPS). The presence in Jerusalem would lead to , fear of heaven." Jeffrey Tigay points out that, "This view is consistent with D'varim 31:10-13 which commands the reading of the book of D'varim in the chosen place every seventh year so that the people will learn reverence."

Picking up on the aspect of eating and the shared meals, times of relaxation away from work with plenty of food and drink, the Who Is ...

Bekhor Shor: Joseph ben Isaac Bekhor Shor; a twelfth century French tosafist, commentator and poet; he lived in Orleans and was a pupil of the Rashbam and Rabbenu Tam; wrote a commentary to the Torah and made contributions to the Talmud commentaries; followed the p'shat method of interpretation in the style of Rashi, to the extent of rationalising many miracles
Bekhor Shor gives another reason for coming together "before HaShem": that "the poor will likewise be encouraged to come on pilgrimage in the hope of sharing a meal with you." Family and community bonding is developed by being and eating together. Rabbi Who Is ...

Hirsch: Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888 CE), German rabbi, author and educator; staunch opponent of the Reform movement in Germany and one of the fathers of Orthodox Judaism
Hirsch extends this another step, when he claims that "This is a sanctification of the family - the food, the nourishing of all Jewish families is considered as being in service of the Sanctuary of the Torah, eating family meals priest-like before G-d's presence." The priests have to eat their portions of the sacrifices in a holy place, before the L-rd, as part of their service. When a family comes up to the Sanctuary, they too can be seen to participate in that holiness by eating the tithe - which is consecrated to the L-rd - in His presence; during that act they take on a measure of priestliness. And in the same way that the priest can share some of his food with his family and dependents, so the ordinary family shares in that holiness as they "feast there, on anything you may desire, in the presence of the L-RD your G-d, and rejoice with your household" (D'varim 14:26)).

We find a strong focus on shared meals among the Early Church community in Jerusalem: "Continuing faithfully and with singleness of purpose to meet in the Temple courts daily, and breaking bread in their several homes, they shared their food in joy and simplicity of heart" (Acts 2:26, CJB). Living and eating within the city, they were still "before HaShem" in standard Jewish terms and - of course - before the Lord Yeshua at all times as they spoke of Him and taught each other about Him. The phrase "breaking bread" has often been taken in a sacramental sense here, although Luke almost certainly doesn't intend that: bread would have been a major part of every meal and this is a common way of saying that they ate together. More, we know that every meal would have started with blessing G-d for bread - "Blessed are You, O L-rd our G-d, king of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth" - when the bread would have been broken and then shared around the table.

Jewish congregations world-wide echo this custom of eating together in holy time by sharing an Oneg Shabbat - Shabbat delight - after services on Shabbat morning at the building or facility. Whether provided for everyone by a hospitality team or brought in by members on a "bring and share" basis, this is a really good way of growing and developing fellowship after services. Leading naturally on to classes and recreational activities during the afternoon, some congregations stay together until they share Havdalah1 and the evening prayer service at the end of the day. Whether in the sanctuary or outside, this is such an opportunity to develop relationships, share learning and just have a great extended family time together.

How can the wider church move towards adopting a more holistic pattern for sharing life and time together? Firstly, perhaps, by losing some of its fixation about church being just a dead hour on Sunday morning that doesn't affect the rest of the day or week. Just as our relationships with our spouses, parents or children are not a segregated and precisely measured time slot once a week, but happens every day of the week and can - when needed - be at any time of any day or week, we need to recognise that our relationship with G-d is 24x7. Just as we are not married to our spouse for an hour a week, but live with, eat with, cook for, talk to, our partner and family the whole week round, so we need to be aware of and interact with G-d throughout the seven days of each week. Secondly, by discovering that when we spend time with G-d, that also involves spending time with G-d's people; those other fellow believers who - like us - have also been called to follow Yeshua and serve under His banner in the kingdom of G-d. It can be uplifting to receive encouragement and prayer from brothers and sisters in Messiah; it can be awesome to find that other people are going through similar challenges and struggles as we are and can stand alongside us and hold up our arms while the battle is won. Thirdly, we need to lose some of our nuclear individualism; we need each other - we were never designed to do life on our own. We must see G-d's words - "It is not good for man to be alone" (B'resheet 2:18a) - as more than a call to family units of husband, wife and children; G-d was also talking about community: it is not good for mankind each to live in isolation.

We must learn to share our grain, our new wine and new oil with those around us, "bringing out things old and new" (Matthew 13:52) to bless the wider family of believers and to bless G-d who gave them to us for sharing in the first place. As we overflow to others, we will receive far more in return and the whole body of Messiah can grow and share together.

1. - Havdalah means 'separation' and is the name for the traditional liturgy used to mark the end of Shabbat and start the first day of the week.

Further Study: D'varim 12:17-18; Romans 15:13; 2 Corinthians 4:13-15; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

Application: Are you one of the naturally open social types, or do you tend to be more cautious, measured and careful in your relationships? Perhaps G-d is calling you to share more and participate in wider family life in His family.

Comment - 19:09 10Aug15 Tom: I agree completely with your main point. In our church we are lamentable in sharing our faith with fellow believers or in eating together as a form of community in the way that Judaism does. "Dead hour" is a harsh way of describing things,but it is nearly accurate. We have much to learn here and should do something about it before we quote Dt 10:19 to Israel

© Jonathan Allen, 2015

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