There is a sixth present1 [awarded] to the poor from the land's produce: the tithe given to the poor. It is called the tithe for the poor.
This is the order of [the separation of] the terumot and the tithes. After one harvests produce from the earth or fruit from the tree and completes all the necessary work,2 he separates one fiftieth of the produce.3 This is called the great terumah4 and should be given to the priest. Concerning this the Torah states [Deuteronomy 18:4]: "The first of your grain, your wine, and your oil." Afterwards, he separates one tenth from the remainder.5 This is called the first tithe and must be given to the Levite.6 Concerning this, the Torah states [Numbers 18:24]: "For the tithes of the children of Israel..." and [ibid.:24] states: "To the descendants of Levi have I given all the tithes within Israel."
Afterwards, he separates one tenth from the remainder. This is called "the second tithe." This belongs to the owners and is eaten in Jerusalem.7 Concerning this, it is stated [Leviticus 27:31]: "If a person shall redeem his tithes and [Deuteronomy 14:22-23] states: "You shall surely tithe.... And you shall partake of it before God your Lord in the place that He will choose."
These portions should be separated in this order8 in the first, second, fourth, and fifth years of the Sabbatical cycle. In the third and sixth years of that cycle, by contrast, after the first tithe is separated, a different tithe9 is separated from the remainder and it is given to the poor. It is called the tithe for the poor. In these two years, the second tithe is not separated, only the tithe for the poor. Concerning it is written [Deuteronomy 14:28-29]: "At the conclusion of three years, you shall bring out the tithe of all your grain in that year and deposit it in your gates and the Levite10... [and the stranger, the orphan...] shall come." And concerning it, it is written [ibid. 26:12]: "When you will complete your tithing [in the third year]...."
In the seventh year, all [the produce] is ownerless. There is no [obligation to separate] terumah, not tithes at all, not the first tithe, nor the second tithe, nor the tithe for the poor.11 In the Diaspora12 where [the requirement to] let the land lie fallow does not apply,13 [in the seventh year, in Egypt, Ammon, and Moab,14 we separate the first tithe15 and the tithe for the poor,16 because these lands are close to Eretz Yisrael and in this way, the poor people in Eretz Yisrael can rely on [the produce of these other lands] in the Sabbatical year.
It is a halachah conveyed to Moses at Sinai that the tithe for the poor should be separated in the lands of Ammon and Moab in the Sabbatical year. In Babylonia, the second tithe should be separated in the Sabbatical year as is the practice in most years.17
[After] taking the first tithe, a Levite should separate one tenth and give it to a priest. It is called terumat ma'aser.18 Concerning this, [Numbers 18:26] states: "To the Levites, say...."
When poor people pass by the owner of the field while he is [in his field]19and in possession of the tithe for the poor, he should give each poor person who passes by him [a portion] of the tithe that will satisfy him,20 [as implied by Deuteronomy 26:12]: "And they shall eat in your gates and be satisfied."21
How much is "[a portion] that will satisfy him? If from wheat, he should give him no less than half a kab.22 If from barley, he should give him no less than a kab. If from spelt, he should give him no less than a kab.23 If from dried figs, he should give him no less than a kab. If from a mass of figs, he should give him no less than the weight24 of 25 selaim.25 If from wine, he should give him no less than half a log.26 If from oil, he should give him no less than a fourth [of a log]. If from rice, he should give him no less than a fourth of a kab. If he gives him vegetables, he should give him a liter weight, i.e., the weight of 35 dinarim. From carobs, [he should give him] three kabbim; from nuts,27 ten, from peaches, five; from pomegranates, two; an esrog, one. If he gives him from other produce, he should not give him less than would enable him to sell them and to buy food for two meals with the proceeds.
If one only has a small amount of produce and there are many poor people so that he does not have enough to give each one the appropriate measure, he should place [the entire quantity] before them and they should divide it among themselves.28
The owners do not have the right to apportion the tithe for the poor that is given away at the grainheap at their discretion.29 Instead, the poor come and take it against their will. Even the poor among the Jewish people can expropriate from them. When, by contrast, one gives out the tithe of the poor in his home, he may give it to any poor man to whom he desires.30
When a person has [a quantity of] the tithe for the poor in his grainheap and he desires to give it to a poor person who is his relative or acquaintance, he should set aside half of it to give it to him and half to give to all the poor who pass by according to the measures mentioned above.
When does the concept that one must give a poor person enough to satisfy him apply? In the field. If, however, he has tithes in his home, he may divide it among all the poor people, giving each one even only an olive-sized portion,31 for he is not commanded to give him an amount necessary to satisfy him except in a field, for there are no others there from whom to take, as [implied by] the verse: "And they shall eat in your gates and be satisfied."
If a man and a woman come to [a person possessing tithes] at home,32 we give to the woman first33 and allow her to depart and then give to the man. [In the situations, when one] of the pair - a father and his son, a person and his relative, two brothers, or two partners - was poor, the other may give him the tithe for the poor which he possesses.34
When two poor people receive a field under a sharecropping agreement, one may separate the tithe for the poor from his portion and give it to his colleague. And his colleague may separate the tithe for the poor from his portion and give it to him.35
When a person receives [the right] to harvest a field,36 he is forbidden to collect leket, shichichah, pe'ah, and the tithe for the poor.
When does the above apply? When he accepted a field [with the proviso] that he receive a portion of the produce of the entire field, e.g., he was given a third or a fourth [of the harvest] as his wage. If, however, the owner of the field told: "You will receive only a third of what you harvest," or "...a fourth of what you will harvest," [the harvester of the field] does not have a right to anything until he harvests it. Hence, at the time of the harvest, he is a poor man.37 Therefore he is permitted [to collect] leket, shichichah, and pe'ah, but he is forbidden [to take] the tithe for the poor. [The rationale is that] the tithe for the poor is separated only after the harvest is completed and [at that time,] he has already acquired the portion he harvested.38
When a person sells his field - both the land and the produce39 - and becomes impoverished, he is permitted [to collect] leket, shichichah, pe'ah, and tithe for the poor from it. The purchaser is forbidden [to collect] these presents even though he has not paid the money [for the field] yet.40 Even if he borrowed the money and purchased it, he can no longer collect the presents for the poor.
The tithe for the poor may not be used as payment for a loan,41 nor can it be given in exchange for favors.42 It may be used for an act of kindness,43 but one must tell the recipient that it is the tithe for the poor.44 It should not be used to redeem captives,45 given as shushbinut,46 nor given as a specific gift to charity. It can be given to the sage of a city for his benefit47 and it may not be taken from Eretz Yisrael into the Diaspora, as [Deuteronomy 14:28] states: "And you shall place it in your gates,"48and it is written [ibid. 26:22]: "And they shall eat in your gates and be satiated."
One fiftieth is the average amount separated. As explained in Hilchot Terumot, ch. 3, there is no prescribed amount of terumah required according to Scriptural Law. And even according to Rabbinic Law, there are varying amounts.
Although Ezra penalized the Levites for not making aliyah and ordained that the tithes should be given to the priests and not to them, that ordinance applied only in that generation and not for all time (Hilchot Ma'aser 1:4).
More than two tithes are never separated. Thus in the years that the second tithe is separated, the tithe for the poor is not separated. And in the years that the tithe for the poor is separated, the second tithe is not separated.
Although the verse mentions Levites, the intent is that he should collect the initial tithe (Rashi on the verse; Siftei Cohen, Yoreh De'ah 331:39). The tithe given afterwards, by contrast, is not necessarily given to the Levites, put to the poor as the verse continues.
As stated at the conclusion of the previous chapter, none of the agricultural obligations apply with regard to ownerless produce. All of the produce of the Sabbatical year is ownerless by Divine decree (Bava Metzia 39a).
Here the meaning of the term Diaspora is limited applying only to those lands mentioned by the Rambam here. Crops from all other parts of the Diaspora are not obligated in any of the agricultural laws that apply to the produce of Eretz Yisrael.
Pe'at HaShulchan 23:27 explains that the Rambam is speaking about the portions of Ammon and Moav that were not conquered by the Jewish people upon their entry into Eretz Yisrael and thus never became part of the Holy Land. There were, by contrast, certain portions of Ammon and Moab that were conquered by Sichon. After he was vanquished by the Jewish people, that land became part of Eretz Yisrael. They are bound by the same laws that apply in Eretz Yisrael. Although this interpretation is accepted by most authorities, it appears to contradict the Rambam's own statements in his Commentary to the Mishnah (Yedayim 4:3).
The Rambam's source (Yedayim, loc. cit.) mentions the separation of the tithe for the poor, but not the separation of the first tithe. Since the tithe for the poor is never separated unless the first tithe is separated, the Rambam concluded that it should also be separated at this time (Radbaz).
Our Sages also ordained that terumah and the tithes be separated there for the reasons stated by the Rambam (ibid.). Since it is distant from Eretz Yisrael, the poor of Eretz Yisrael would not gain any significant advantage by having the tithe for the poor separated in that year.
He must, however, give an olive-sized portion, because Deuteronomy, loc. cit., speaks of "giv[ing]" and the term "giving" implies giving a significant amount. Kritot 6b states that anything less than an olive-sized portion is not significant.
A poor person who owns a field may not take the tithe of the poor from his field for himself (Gittin 12a). Nevertheless, despite the fact that these individuals are very close to him, he is permitted to give them his tithes.
In his Commentary to the Mishnah (Pe'ah 5:5), the Rambam explains the difference between the two instances. In the first instance, the harvester has a right to the entire field even before he begins the harvest. Hence he is not considered as poor. In the second instance, since he does not own anything until the harvest is completed, he is considered as poor.
Moznaim is the publisher of the Nehardaa Shas, a new, state-of-the-art edition of the Talmud and all major commentaries in 20 volumes. Click here to purchase or email the publisher at firstname.lastname@example.org