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And every tenth of cattle or flock, every [one] that will pass under the staff, the tenth one shall be holy to the L-rd. – Vayikra/Leviticus 27:32
Almost the last command in Vayikra as the book draws to an end, this and its companion two verses earlier, cause some confusion to the commentators. As Gunther Plaut points out, “this tithe of animals is mentioned nowhere else in the Torah.” Whilst we have early examples of Avraham, who gave a tenth of all that he possessed to Melchizedek, the king of Salem and priest of El Elyon, the Most High G-d – “Abram gave him a tenth of everything” (B’resheet 14:20, JPS) – and Ya’akov who expansively promised HaShem that “of all that You give me, I will set aside a tithe for You” (28:22, JPS), Baruch Levine affirms that there is no other place where the Torah requires a tithe of one’s entire herd and flock. In fact, even changing the frame from one’s entire stock to simply the increase during the year, he still asserts, “no other Torah legislation ordains a tithe from the annual increments of the herds and flocks.” This change matches the Jewish tradition as Hirsch, writing in the nineteenth century demonstrates: “one tenth of the increase of one’s flocks and herds has to be designated … only those born to the livestock of one owner in each year, or those purchased by him before the age fitting them for offering (seven days).” The Ralbag too affirms that it was applied only to the increase in the flock, when he explains that each animal “must pass under its own power. This teaches that they would put the animals’ mothers outside so that the lambs and calves would hear their voices and go out to them.” (Click to Article)