Mazel tov to QC alumni Noah Morris and Adina Fromowitz on their recent engagement. Pictures from the engagement party below.
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Rabbi Yochanan once found the young son of Reish Lakish on his way home from school. He said to the boy, his nephew, “Recite the verse you studied today in school.”
The boy said, “עשר תעשר, A tithe shall you tithe” (Deut. 12:22),. “But what is the meaning of the phrase?” the boy asked.
Rabbi Yochanan responded, “The verse means to take a tithe so that you will become wealthy.”
The boy then said, “From where do you derive that this is true?”
Rabbi Yochanan said, “Go and test it!”
The Talmud then goes on to say that although one is generally not permitted to test G-d, an exception is made in the case of charity.
Now to understand what is going on in this passage, a little Hebrew knowledge is important. The phrase, “a tithe you shall tithe” is rendered in Hebrew as aser t’aser, עשר תעשר. In Hebrew, the letters shin and sin appear identical, the only difference being a small dot above the upper left or upper right, thereby changing the sound from ‘s’ to ‘sh.’
So it seems that Rabbi Yochanan was interpreting the verse based on the fact that the Talmud (and other Jewish texts) are written without vowels, thereby allowing one to read the word t’aser (with a sin, meaning to tithe) as t’asher (with a shin) — meaning, to become wealthy.
The Bnei Yissoschor asks: What kind of way is that to do a mitzvah? One should take tithes in order to become wealthy? That is not exactly the most noble of intentions!
The explanation is that if one is impoverished, one becomes too distracted to do the mitzvot. If one is worrying about how to put food on the table for one’s family, everything in life becomes a challenge. So when Rabbi Yochanan said that the verse his nephew quoted means that one should give tithes in order to become wealthy, this is actually the most noble of motivations. We ask G-d to bless us all with wealth, in order that we can focus on the important things in life: supporting our family, Torah and mitzvot.