Maaser Sheni, Chapter Five, Mishnah Ten

 

Introduction

This mishnah and the following three mishnayot are an extended midrash on Deuteronomy 26:12-15, the tithe confession. We should note that according to a simple reading of these verses, they only refer to one type of tithe, although it is not entirely clear to whom this tithe is allotted. However, the rabbis midrashically read into these verses all of the various types of agricultural gifts that a person must remove from his home before he can recite the tithe confession.

 

Mishnah Ten

1)      At minhah on the last festival day they would make the confession.

2)      How was the confession made? 

3)      “I have cleared out the holy portion from the house”— this refers to maaser sheni and the fruit of plants in their fourth year.

4)      “I have given them to the Levite” — this refers to the tithe of the levites.

5)      “And also I have given them” — this refers to terumah and the terumah of tithe.

6)      “To the stranger, to the orphans, and to the widow”— this refers to the tithe of the poor, gleanings, forgotten sheaves, and the corners of the field, even though these do not prevent   [one from making] the confession.

7)      “Out of the house” — this refers to hallah. 

 

Explanation

Section one: The tithe confession would be made at the last possible time on the last day of Pesah, at minhah, or late afternoon.

Section two: The actual confession consisted simply of reading all of the verses from Deuteronomy. The mishnah interpolates these verses with midrash, meant to explain what the various phrases in the confession refer to.

Section three: “The holy portion” can refer to maaser sheni which is called “holy” in Leviticus 27:30. And since according to Bet Hillel the rules of maaser sheni also apply to fourth-year fruits, they too can be called “holy.”

Section four: The “Levite” is a reference to first tithe, given to the Levites.

Section five: “And also” is taken to be an additional reference, for these words are not strictly needed for the verse to work. Since terumah is not referred to explicitly in the confession, the rabbis see these additional words as a reference to terumah and to the terumah taken from tithe.

Section six: “To the stranger, to the orphans, and to the widow,” refers to poor tithe, which must be removed from one’s house before the confession can be recited. In addition, the mishnah also sees here a reference to the other agricultural gifts given to the poor, even though these do not strictly need to be given before one recites the confession.

Section seven: Finally, the mishnah reads into the confession a reference to “hallah” the part of the dough separated and given to the priest. We will be starting tractate Hallah in just a few short days—so get ready (and start baking!).

 

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