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Posted on August 10, 2023 (5783) By Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein | Series: | Level:

You shall tithe – surely tithe – all the produce of your planting.[2]

The doubling of the verb עשר leads to the famous comment by Chazal,[3] “Tithe so that you will become rich.”[4] One of the difficult things to understand about this midrash is that it seems to clash with a maxim of Chazal elsewhere:[5] “A person does not die without half of his longings still intact and unfulfilled.” The quest for money seems to be an endless road. Not even death gets a person to his destination in this regard. If, then, no one truly arrives in his own eyes to the place called “richness,” what do Chazal mean in their promise? Even charitable giving won’t make a person rich in this lifetime!

Furthermore, is it really so that no one escapes the drive for acquisition? Don’t we know people who enjoy the serenity of sufficiency? People who take real pleasure in what they have, and do not clamor for more?

Take a careful look at Chazal’s choice of words. “Ein adam meis, ve’chatzi taavoso b’yado.” There is no adam meis who frees himself from the rat race. It is the living dead man who is imprisoned by his desires. He is the one trapped on the lowest spiritual level. All others have recourse to the midah of histapkus – of sufficiency.

How to get there? It can start with giving ma’aser, with giving a significant amount of what one earns to others. The feeling of sufficiency, freedom from the need to always acquire more and more, is the richness that Chazal say comes from giving ma’aser. They certainly do not mean that a person’s intention when giving should be achieving monetary wealth. They hardly would champion performing a mitzvah for such lo-lishmah reasons. (Besides, empirically it doesn’t work. We can easily note people who are generous in their giving, but never become wealthy.)

The continuation of the midrash directly supports this. “Give ma’aser shelo tischaser/so that you should not be lacking.” The richness that they promise means that you will not find yourselves lacking anything. You will find sufficiency and joy in what you have. You will acquire the midah of histapkus.

This, too, is what Chazal[6] meant in their comment on, “Bring the tithe to the treasure house…Test me in this…I will shower upon you blessings without end/beli dai.”[7] They say that the blessing will be so abundant that your lips will weary from saying, “Dai/enough.” Are there really such people who respond to Hashem’s berachah with, “That’s enough already?” Rather, they mean that you will internalize the midah of histapkus. Through it, everything that Hashem sends will seem sufficient to bring you joy.

  1. Based on Meor Einayim, by Rav Menachem Nochum t”l of Chernobyl
  2. Devarim 14:22
  3. Shabbos 119a
  4. The same three letters – עשר – mean a rich person
  5. Koheles Rabbah 1:13 (in a somewhat different form)
  6. Shabbos 32b
  7. Malachai 3:10