Maaser Ani

Maaser Ani

Maaser Ani, or the "Poor tithe", reflects an obligation to set aside one tenth of produce grown in the third and sixth years of the seven-year Shemita (Sabbatical year) agricultural cycle for the poor, in the days of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Orthodox Judaism still regards tithe obligations as residing in produce grown in the Land of Israel. Contemporary practice is to set aside the various tithes, then redeem them with a coin. The coin can be a nominal amount and need not be the value of the produce. The coin is discarded in a way that prevents its future use. A little over one percent of the produce, representing tithe obligations which cannot be redeemed, must also be discarded.

Orthodox Judaism regards it as meritorious to discharge one's Terumat Ani obligation additionally by giving a portion of one's income, ideally a tenth, to charity.

In the Hebrew Bible

Maaser Ani is discussed in the Book of Deuteronomy:

At the end of three years you shall bring forth all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall lay it up inside your gates; And the Levite, because he has no part nor inheritance with you, and the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow, who are inside your gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.” (Deuteronomy 14:28.)

The medieval commentator Rashi also interprets Deuteronomy 26:12 as referring to the Maaser Ani:

When you have finished tithing all the tithes of your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give [them] to the Levite, the stranger, the orphan, and the widow, so that they can eat to satiety in your cities. (Deuteronomy 26:12)

In the Talmud

The Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud differ on the laws of the Maaser Ani. The Babylonian Talmud states in Eruvin 29a:

“The general rule is that the produce [that one sets aside for the Poor Tithe] should be enough to provide two meals”

The Babylonian Talmud also records:

R' Yehudah says, "May a curse befall one who feeds his father out of Paupers' Tithe:”

indicating that while the poor tithe technically could be used to feed one's own relatives (if they are poor), one should not do so.

The Jerusalem Talmud Gemarrah on Tractate Peiah (which does not have a Gemarrah in the Babylonian Talmud) requires giving 10% to the poor, not only of one's produce, but of one's possessions in general.


See also

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