May 23, 2023 by Lazer Brody
Nothing so powerfully infuses the soul with trust in the Almighty, or bitachon, as the mitzvah of ma’aser does. Ma’aser means tithing one’s income and giving the money to a worthy cause. The act of tithing shows that a person trusts Hashem for his or her income and therefore is not afraid of fulfilling Hashem’s commandment of giving a tithe.
The following story from the Midrash (Tanchuma, Re’eh, Ch.10) is a superb illustration of bitachon in deed, showing how profoundly tithing and trust so directly affect one’s income:
During the time of our Second Holy Temple in Jerusalem, there was a pious farmer whose field consistently produced a thousand bushels of wheat. Year after year, immediately after harvesting the crop, the farmer set aside a full tenth of the produce as a ma’aser, or tithe. Before doing anything else with the balance of the crop, he sent these hundred bushels of wheat to the Holy Temple. This was a sustenance contribution for the Levites who served Hashem in the Holy Temple. After that was done, he was left with his balance of nine hundred bushels of grain. the net yield after tithing provided an adequate income for the entire coming year in addition to a little extra for savings. As such, his savings became progressively more and more as the years passed.
The farmer grew old and his time to depart the physical world approached. He summoned his only son to his bedside and said, “My dear son, I have lived a good life in accordance with the commandments of our holy Torah. Whatever I possess will now be yours, to do as you please. One thing I want to advise you. Our land produces one thousand bushels a year; never fail to tithe it. If you give ma’aser faithfully, the land will not disappoint you.”
The first harvest of the young man on his own yielded a thousand bushels of wheat as before. The son faithfully gave his tithe of one hundred bushels just as his father always had done.
A year transpired and once again, the field yielded a bumper crop of a thousand bushels. This time, the venom of greed and stinginess began to penetrate the young man’s soul. “What, am I crazy? Why should I give away the enormous sum of 100 bushels to the Levites in the Temple? Let them suffice with 90!”
Sure enough, the following year’s yield was no longer one thousand bushels but only nine hundred.
Seeing that his income decreased, the young farmer decided to create an austerity plan – the first victim was the tithe. Therefore, after his third harvest on his own, he only gave eighty bushels to the needy Levites.
As if on Heavenly cue, his fourth harvest yielded only eight hundred bushels. Instead of heeding the Divine message that his wheat field was conveying to him, he angrily continued reducing his ma’aser until he reached a point where the yield of his tenth harvest was a mere only one hundred bushels, which during his father’s lifetime, was merely the tithe!
The above story illustrates an amazing deep-seeded spiritual principle on the benefits of “working for Hashem” as a reliable trustee administering Divine affairs. Let’s see how this works, step by step:
The Torah commands, “You shall tithe and re-tithe your grain harvest, the yield of the field, year after year” (Deuteronomy 14:22). “Tithe and retithe” emphasizes that ma’aser is not an occasional commandment to do once and not just for farmers; any money, goods or monetary equivalent that a person receives or earns must be tithed. If a person acts accordingly, our sages not only promise that he or she will have an adequate income, but will become rich as well (Shabbos 119a). Wait and see how your tithed money grows and grows.
If you’d like to learn more about enhancing your income and trust in the Almighty, see our book Bitachon.