Q: What is the difference between a tithe and an offering?
A: The ancient concept of tithing comes from the Hebrew word ma’aser which finds its root in the word a’aser, which means: Ten, to take the tenth, to give the tenth part/portion. The practice of tithing is written throughout the Bible, and is viewed as a holy and righteous act of obedience to our Creator.
“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand. Then Abram gave him a tenth (ma’aser) of everything.” – Gen. 14:18 – 20.
In the ancient Temple services, the tithe was not counted as part of the sin sacrifices or the thanksgiving offerings; those were given above and beyond the ma’aser.
There are some common misconceptions today about tithing. Some would say: “I give of my time and service as a tithe.” This is a misunderstanding of the whole concept of giving a tenth of the fruit of your labor. Time is not a byproduct of our labor; time is required to perform the labor necessary to obtain the “fruit” that is given back to God.
At Sefadi Tree we bring forward our tithes and offerings during the week for praise, worship and charity. That is being part of a community or fellowship. In ancient times the Hebrews would sing and dance around the walls of Jerusalem seven times and bring their tithes to the High Priest. This was done because our tithes are considered an act of praise and worship to the Most High.
Many Jewish groups including Orthodox Judaism still regards tithe obligations as residing in produce grown in the Land of Israel. Contemporary practice is to set aside terumah, separate ma’aser rishon, separate terumat ma’aser, then redeem ma’aser sheni with a coin (on years that do not coincide with ma’aser ani).
Traditional Jewish law and practice has included various forms of tithing since ancient times. Universally, Orthodox Jews practice ma’aser kesafim (tithing 10% of their income to charity) and take challah. In modern Israel, some Jews continue to follow the laws of agricultural tithing, e.g., terumah, ma’aser rishon, terumat ma’aser, and ma’aser sheni.
To learn more, read “Ma’aser Kesafim – Giving a Tenth to Charity” edited by Cyril Domb (Feldheim), and “Permission to Receive,” by Lawrence Kellemen ( including Amazon & Targum Press). See also: “Code of Jewish Law” Y.D. 249:2; “Igrot Moshe”(R’ M. Feinstein) Y.D. II, 112; “Orchat Rabeinu (R’ Y. Kanievsky) I, 302.