Agricultural Laws and Exile of the Ten Tribes
Legal-Halachic Notes quoted in this article were based on those of Maimonides as quoted in Torah.org which site at present seems to be waiting for renewal and re-activation.
2. Commanded Gifts to the Poor in Scripture.
3. Trumah and the Two Tithes.
4. Offerings to the Temple and to the Priests.
5. Second Tithe.
6. Sabbatical Years (Shemitta).
7. Jubillee Year.
8. The Three Great Calamities and a Temporary Abrogation of Some of these Laws.
9. The Prosbul.
10. Biblical Authority and the Sages.
11. Torah Learning and Tithes.
Tithing in Biblical Terms involved both separating one-tenth from income as well as agricultural offerings. Concerning the Tithing of Income, this is discussed in a separate article, "Tithing. Income Offerings and Contributions." The article explains how, as shown by the Prophecy of Malachi, the tithing of Income is a component in the Future Redemption of the Tribes of Israel!
Nevertheless, the Tithing of Agricultural produce was also important and it will be renewed. It also invovles the Exile and Return of the Lost Ten Tribers.
9 Honour the LORD with your substance
and with the first fruits of all your produce;
10 then your barns will be filled with plenty,
and your vats will be bursting with wine.
According to the Torah certain gifts had to be given to the poor, to the Temple Service, and to the Priests and Levites, and others.
When harvesting specific portions of the crop had to be left to the poor (Leviticus 23:22, 19:9-10; Deuteronomy 7:1-2,13; 8:10, 24:19-21).
3. Trumah and the Two Tithes
The Tribe of Levi was divided into 2 major sections, Cohens (Priests) and Levites. The Cohens had to receive a first portion of the grain, wine, and olive oil harvests. These comprised the staple foods at the time.
"The first of your grain, wine and oil... you shall give him" (Deuteronomy 18:4). The portion of the Cohens was anywhere between 1/40 to 1/60 th of the total, with 1/50th being the recommeded quantity. This portion of the Priests is known as TRUMAH.
The Priests (Cohens) were also to be given 24 different gifts: These included the skins of sacrifices and other perks.
After the seaparation of Trumah, a tithe (tenth) of the remainder was to be given to the Levites, as it says "And to the children of Levi I have given all tithes in Israel... (Numbers 18:21,24). This is the First Tithe.
During the 3rd and 6th year of the 7 year Cycle the Second Tithe (a tenth) of the Produce was to be given to the Levites and the Poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29, 26:12). This was in addition to the First Tithe which went solely to the Levites.
In the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th years of the Sabbatical Cycle, the Second Tithe was to be eaten by its owners in Jerusalem.
4. Offerings to the Temple and to the Priests.
Every year each Israelite had to be give half a silver shekel to the Temple Service (Exodus 30:13).
Sacrifices had to be offered by every Israelite three times a year in Jerusalem. The sacrifices were given as a form of worship, as a means of celebration, and as atonements.
There were different sacrifice for differing purposes. There were sacrifices that were entirely burnt up on the altar, others whose flesh was mainly eaten by the Priests, and others in which most of the meat went to the person making the offering and his family and friends.
A Second Tithe was set aside in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th years of the Sabbatical Cycle. It was to be eaten in Jerusalem (or to be redeemed and the proceeds spent for food to be eaten in Jerusalem), as it says "You shall tithe all the produce of your crops... and shall eat before Ha-Shem your G-d in the place that he shall choose" (Leviticus 27:30-31, Deuteronomy 14:22-23).
In other (3rd and 6th) years this tithe was given to the poor and Levites (Deuteronomy 14:28-29, 26:12).
6. Sabbatical Years (Shemitta)
We are commanded to support the poor (Leviticus 25:35-36, Deuteronomy 15:7-8, 11).
During the Seventh (Sabbatical) Year all produce in the fields was to be available equally to the poor and to the rest of the population (Exodus 23:10-11, Leviticus 25:56-7). The Sabbatical Year in Hebrew is called "Shmittah" connoting "Let Lie, Abandon."
In addition to the asgticultural aspects all monetary debts in the 7th year were to be absolved (Deuteronomy 15:1-3). There was to be a new beginning.
We are commanded to support the poor all year round every year (Leviticus 25:35-36, Deuteronomy 15:7-8, 11).
Every 50th year at the end of 7 cycles of 7 years came a Yovel (Jubillee Year) in which Indentured Hebrew Servants were automatically freed, and Ancestral Lands were returned to the families that had originally owned them. This 50th year also had the same laws as the Shemittah year so it was as if 2 shmeittah Years were celebrated one straight after the other.
8. The Three Great Calamities and a Temporary Abrogation of Some of these Laws
In Biblical Times Three Great Calamities struck the Israelite Nation:
a. The Exile of the Ten Tribes began with the Assyrians taking away the two and a half Tribes east of the Jordan i.e. Reuben, Gad, and Half-Manasseh (1-Chronicles 5:6, 26).
25 But they broke faith with the God of their fathers, and whored after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them. 26 So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, the spirit of Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and he took them into exile, namely, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river Gozan, to this day.
This was followed by the Exile of the rest of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
29 In the time of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came and took Ijon, Abel Beth Maakah, Janoah, Kedesh and Hazor. He took Gilead and Galilee, including all the land of Naphtali, and deported the people to Assyria.
cf. Isaiah 9:1.
6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes.
These events had repercussions on the Sabbatical Year Laws.
b. The Exile of the Jews to Babylon in ca. 580 BCE. From this a minority returned after 70 years and re-founded the Province of Judah.
c. The Second Exile and Dispersion of Judah in ca. 70 CE by the Romans.
Concerning (b) above, The Exile to Babylon had been partly because they did not keep the Sabbatical Years.
32 I will devastate the land, so that your enemies who come to settle in it shall be appalled at it. 33 And you I will scatter among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword against you; your land shall be a desolation, and your cities a waste.
34 Then the land shall enjoy its sabbath years as long as it lies desolate, while you are in the land of your enemies; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its sabbath years. 35 As long as it lies desolate, it shall have the rest it did not have on your sabbaths when you were living on it.
20 He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, 21 to fulfil the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had made up for its sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept sabbath, to fulfil seventy years.
We see from above that the Babylonian Exile was associated with the sin of not have observed the Sabbatical Year. This presupposes that the Sabbatical Year had been obligatory right up to the Time of Exile. This seems to be the majority opinion. The Jubilee came to an end with the Exile of the Ten Tribes while Shemittah continued to be valid until the Fall of the First Temple about 140 years later.
The Sabbatical Year (Shemitta) and Jubilee obligation were understood to require that all the Tribes be on their Lands. With the exile of Gad, Reuben, and half-Manasseh (followed by the others) this requirement was no longer met. The obligation to keep Jubillee Year ended at once but that of the Shemitta continued until the Exile to Babylon. With the return from Babylon however it could not re-instituted. The same applies to all the other agricultural laws! Trumah, 1st and 2nd tithes, etc., were all abrogated. The Sages however re-instituted all of the Agricultural Laws except for the Jubillee Year. These laws howerver were henceforth sustained by authority of the Sages and not that of the Biblical Text (Rabbi Chaim Kameneski, Zeraim; Trumah; 1;231).
When the Tribes return there the Laws may be re-enacted with Torah sanction.
[The above note may not be consdiered completely accurate according to some opinions. it would appear however to reflect the mainstream consensus.]
Concerning Shemittah, the Sages in Second Temple times had re-instituted a Law of their own obliging the observance of Shemittah meaning letting the Land lie fallow in the seventh year and the annulment of debts. They deliberately extended this law only over a small section of the Biblical Boundaries of the Holy Land. This ensured that nearby areas would continue to be farmed and provide the needed food supply for the rest. There are still those today who mistakenly take the boundaries of Shemittah observance to be those of the Holy Land.
In Second Temple times a tendency developed at the approach of the Shemittah Year for people to stop lending money. Since the debts were to be annulled every 7th year it meant that there was a good chance of those who lent money never receiving it back. Lack of funds was causing social and economic hardship. The Sages therefore instituted a legal near-fiction (called Prosbul) by which the debts could be transferred to the courts (who were not obligated by Shemittah) and so they who lent money could collect on it later. Certain Purists have criticized the Sages for this as if they had circumvented and/or uprooted the Torah Law. They had not since at the time the Laws of Shemittah owed their validity to the Sages. Through the institution of the Prosbul the Sages had made their own enactments more livable in light of a changing situation.
The Exile of the Jews to Babylon and their Return had resulted in a reconstitution of authority.
The authority of the Sages had existed from the beginning (Exodus 18:25-26, Numbers 11:16, Deuteronomy 17:8-13). It had however been balanced somewhat by the existence of Prophecy though at least some of the Prophets were also Sages. Henceforth the Sages took over in the Great Assembly. This body was constituted when the Jews returned from Babylon and initially numbered 120 which was eventually reduced to 70. It included Prophets in its ranks but replaced the Prophets as a center of authority. The Age of Prophecy was coming to an end. It will be renewed shortly before the Messianic Era. It should be remembered that what books would go into the Bible and how words in the Bible would be read and what they meant and even (according to Nachmanides) what letters constituted words was all decided by authority of the Sages. If the authority of the Sages is rejected so is Scripture!
Exile is associated with not keeping the Shemittah (Sabbatical Year):
[Hebrew Language Article with sources and discussion:
The Jubilee year was valid only up until the Exile of the Ten Tribes.
10 And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.
When all its inhabitants are on it and not just a portion of it.
When all its inhabitants are on it in their Tribal Order and not intermixed with each other (Talmud, Arakin 32:b).
The Destruction of the Second Temple and Dispersion of the Jews led to an end of acceptable pedigrees concerning the Priests and Levites. For this and other reasons most gifts and offerings to these groups even according to the Sages no longer had sufficient sanction to be carried out as they had been up until then. They are however in some cases still partially adhered to.
This too shall be corrected and restored in the End Times.
We are left with gifts to the poor, assistance to others, and the overall voluntary or obligatory (depending on whose viewpoint is accepted) practice of tithing to worthy causes.
We were all to Learn Torah
As explained above,
In ancient times one tenth of the produce went to the Levites. This was the First Tithe.
Another tenth was the property of the producer BUT had to be eaten in Jerusalem as did one tenth of all new-born animals.
The Rabbinical work, "Sefer ha Chinuch," (positive commandment 360), in the 1200s CE, explained that the 2nd tithe had to be eaten in Jerusalem in order to encourage Israelites to dwell in Jerusalem where food would have been plentiful and cheap. Since part of their produce had to be eaten in Jerusalem anyway there would be an incentive for families to spend time themselves in Jerusalem in learning and to support at least one of their members in learning Torah in Jerusalem either all year round or at least for part of it. In this way the learning would percolate down to all members of the Community.
See our mini-article:
The Full-Time Torah-Warriors of Israel Today.
Levites were to learn Torah.
Not only the 2nd tithe but also the 1st tithe had as part of its purpose the need to enable learning of the Torah.
2-Chronicles 31: 2 Hezekiah appointed the divisions of the priests and of the Levites, division by division, everyone according to his service, the priests and the Levites, for burnt-offerings and offerings .... 4 He commanded the people who lived in Jerusalem to give the portion due to the priests and the Levites, so that they might devote themselves to the law of the LORD.
Note the last verse (31:4) indicating that the Tithes to the Levites were given in order to enable them to learn Torah.
According to the Bible the Ancient Israelites when they entered the Land had many laws to obey that later did not obligate them.
They had to separate from their produce various portions and tithes for the Cohens, Levis, and Indigent. There were other things they had to do that the above article did not mention.
Much of this technically was abrogated when the Ten Tribes were exiled by Assyria. The rest was abrogated when the Jews of Judah were exiled to Babylon. his brought it all to an end. When the Jews returned from Babylon the laws could not be considered obligatory because the Ten Tribes were not present. The Sages however partially re-instituted the missing laws. Nevertheless, they lacked the degree of stringency they had once had. This enabled circumvention of difficult laws through legal devices sucha s the Prosbul.
In the future the Ten tribes will return. Everything assumedly will return to as it was int he past . The Torah will be abided by.
Learning Torah had an end in itself. It is a spiritual experience that brings a blessing on the whole nation. In our generation it acts as a barrier against promiscuity and public insanity. it should be encoruaged.