The Rebellion

16:1After the episode of the spies, Korach figuratively betook himself aside, breaking away from Moses’ authority. Korach’s lineage was impressive: he was Moses’ first cousin, the eldest son of Yitzhar, who was the second son of Kehat (after Amram), who was in turn the second son of Levi.1 His lineage back to Jacob is not mentioned here because Jacob prophetically saw that this rebellion would occur and prayed that his name not be mentioned in it.2 Korach felt that since the two sons of Amram (Moses and Aaron) assumed the highest offices of the people (leader and high priest), he should be the next in line for honor, since he was the son of Amram’s next brother in line, Yitzhar. When Moses, acting on God’s orders, appointed a son of Uziel, Amram’s youngest brother, to the position of prince of the Kehat clan,3 Korach was incensed. He led his rebellion with his own sons,4 together with his neighbors Dathan and Aviram, the sons of Eliav,5 and On the son of Pelet. The latter three were all descendants of Reuben, who camped south of the Tabernacle,6 next to the clan of Kehat, who also camped south of the Tabernacle.7

2 They confronted Moses together with 250 men from the Israelites. The group included the 12 princes of the congregation, summoned for the assembly, but it was made up chiefly of the heads of the courts, men of repute,most of whom were from the tribe of Reuben.

3 They all assembled against Moses and Aaron, dressed in wool robes dyed with techelet and asked if such a garment requires tassels. Moses answered in the affirmative. They mocked this answer, saying that if attaching a tassel with a single thread of techelet to a garment not dyed with techelet makes the garment permissible, shouldn’t a garment made itself of wool dyed with techelet be permitted to be worn without a tassel? By this, they meant to imply that since all the people are holy, there is no need for special leaders. They said to Moses and Aaron, “You take too much honor upon yourselves, for the entire congregation is all holy, as evidenced by the fact that they all heard God’s voice at Mount Sinai, and God is in their midst. So why do you raise yourselves above God’s community?”

4 When Moses heard this, he fell on his face. When the people committed the sins of the Golden Calf and the spies’ rebellion, God had threatened to wipe the people out and Moses had interceded successfully on their behalf. When they complained at Taveirah, God had actually started to burn up the people in order to prevent the rebellion from spreading, but the offenders quickly repented and Moses could then pray to God to halt the flames. Now, however, Moses was afraid that Korach’s rebellion would spread and God would threaten to wipe out the people, or that God would punish the offenders in order to prevent the rebellion from spreading. But this time, he was at a loss as to how to convince God to forgive them. At the sins of the Golden Calf and the spies, he had argued that wiping out the whole people would lead to God’s disrepute, but here, Korach’s rebellion had not yet spread to the whole people. At Taveirah, the offenders had repented, so Moses could pray for them, but here, they had not. God, however, told Moses that in this case, it was possible to conduct a test that would demonstrate the error of Korach and his followers and to punish only them.

5So Moses stood up and spoke to Korach and to all his company, saying, “Right now, everyone is too excited. God has instructed me to conduct a test, which we will perform in the morning, and through this test God will make it known who are to act as the Levites, His servants, and who He has made holy enough to act as priests, and He will draw these two groups near to Him. He will allow only the one He chooses, the priests, to sacrifice to Him.” Moses put off the trial until the morning hoping that Korach and his people would reconsider in the meantime. He also hinted to them that God’s division between the Levites, the priesthood, and the laity was as fixed as His division between day and night, and they had as little chance of obliterating the former as they had of obliterating the latter.

6Moses declared, It is very noble to want to be a high priests; I would also like to be a high priest. But this cannot be, for unlike the pagans, who recognize many forces at work in the world and designate many priests, rites, and temples to serve them, our nation serves the one God as one body, and therefore requires only one high priest. Therefore, perform the following test, as God has instructed me. Do this, Korach and company: go and play the part of priests. Take for yourselves censers,

7 place fire into them, and put incense upon them before God tomorrow. Although the incense is the most sublime of the Temple rites,8 it is also potentially lethal—Nadav and Avihu were in fact killed by unauthorized use of it9—so I am therefore warning you: since you are in error, you may expect the same fate. The man whom God will choose is Aaron, who is already the holy one, and he will remain alive, not you. I have given you a serious warning, sons of Levi, and you have taken too great a responsibility upon yourselves.” But despite Moses’ established credibility, the rebels did not heed his warning. Korach thought he would survive no matter what, because he saw prophetically that he would have illustrious descendants. This prophecy was indeed correct, but only because his sons, who at that point were on his side, subsequently repented and thus preserved his line.

8 Moses therefore tried to reason with Korach, addressing him in a conciliatory manner. He said to Korach, “Please listen,” but Korach refused to listen, so before the rebellion spread any further, Moses addressed the entire tribe of Levi. He said, “Listen, sons of Levi!

9 Is it not enough that the God of Israel has distinguished you from the congregation of Israel to draw you near to Him, to perform the service in the Tabernacle of God, and to stand before the congregation to minister to them by singing while the sacrifices are being offered?”

10Addressing Korach, he said, “He drew you near, and all your brothers, the sons of Levi with you, to the distinction from which He excluded the rest of the people,” and addressing the entire tribe, he continued, “shall you all now seek the priesthood as well?”

11Speaking again to Korach, Moses concluded, “Therefore, for all these reasons, you and your entire company who are assembled with you are rebelling not against me but against God, for it is by His word that I have given the priesthood to Aaron and his descendants. What is Aaron, that you should complain against him?”

12Having addressed Korach, Moses sent to call Dathan and Aviram, the sons of Eliav, to conciliate them. (On, the son of Pelet, although one of the original instigators, had by now repented.) But Dathan and Aviram said, “We will not go up.” Unwittingly, they prophesied their own doom, for indeed, as shall be described further on, they died by falling into the depths of the earth.

13They continued, “Is it not enough that you promised to bring us into a land flowing with milk and honey, but in fact have brought us out of a land flowing with milk and honey,i.e., Egypt, to kill us in the desert, that you should also exercise authority over us?

Second Reading 14 Not only have you taken us out of a luxurious land, you have also not brought us to a land flowing with milk and honey, nor have you given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards, as you promised. Even if you send someone to gouge out the eyes of those men [—euphemistically meaning, ‘our eyes’—] we will not go up.”

15After these discussions, it became clear to Moses that the 250 rebels were not merely aspiring to the high priesthood, as he originally thought, but that they were rebelling, like Korach, against Moses’ leadership and Aaron’s appointment. Had they been merely aspiring to the high priesthood, the incense test would have been enough to silence their arguments. But now that it became clear that they were contesting Moses’ leadership and Aaron’s appointment as high priest, Moses became exceedingly distressed, and he said to God, “Do not regard the offering they are going to offer tomorrow morning at all—do not consider it a sacrificial rite, and therefore do not punish them for offering it. They are not simply aspiring to the high priesthood: they are rebelling against Your directives in general. Therefore, do not even consume their portion in the daily communal sacrifices. Punish them in a way that will demonstrate that they are being punished for rebelling against the authority You have vested in me. How can they accuse me of abusing my office? I have not taken a donkey from a single one of them, not even reimbursement for the donkey I used for my wife and children when I returned to Egypt on behalf of the people. And I have not harmed a single one of them.” God agreed to Moses’ request not to consider the rebels’ incense a sacrificial rite that would make them liable to the death penalty. It would only serve as a test that would demonstrate who indeed is a true priest and who is not.10

16In this spirit, Moses said to Korach, “You and your entire congregation should present yourselves before God—you, they, and Aaron, tomorrow.

17 Let each man in your party take his censer and place incense upon it, and let each man present his censer before God, all 250 censers, and let you and Aaron each take his censer.”

18 So, the following morning, each man took his censer, and they put fire upon it and placed incense upon it, and they stood at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting with Moses and Aaron.

19 Korach assembled all the congregation against them at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, for the whole night he had circulated among the people, convincing them that he was acting on their behalf, as well. Korach and the 250 men offered their incense, and Aaron offered his. As Moses had requested, God did not respond now to this unauthorized offering. At some point during the rebellion, Korach’s sons regretted their involvement, but nonetheless continued to participate in it.11 At this point, the glory of God appeared before the entire congregation in the form of a pillar of cloud.

Third Reading 20Since Korach had enticed the entire people to take his side, God spoke to Moses and Aaron saying,

21 “Dissociate yourselves from this congregation, and I will consume them in an instant.”

22 They fell on their faces and said, “O God, the God who knows the spirits of all flesh, and can probe everyone’s thoughts: if one man sins, shall You be angry with the whole congregation? A mortal king has to punish all his subjects if he does not know which of them sinned against him. You, however, know exactly which of Your subjects sinned—Korach, who instigated all this—and which ones were merely swept along by the spirit of the moment—everyone else. Why should you wipe out everyone?

23 God accepted this argument. He spoke to Moses, saying,

24You are right that those who were swept up by the instigators’ rhetoric should not suffer as severe a punishment as the instigator himself should. But you are wrong in thinking that only Korach was an instigator. Speak to the congregation saying, ‘Withdraw from the dwellings of all three instigators: Korach, Dathan, and Aviram.” ’12

25After the cloud departed, the crowd dispersed and everyone went back to their tents. Moses, following God’s instructions, went to Korach’s tent, which was in the Levite camp, not far from the Tent of Meeting, and told everyone nearby to withdraw. He then arose and went to the tents of Dathan and Aviram, which were much further away, in the camp of Reuben, in order to warn everyone near them to withdraw from their vicinity, as well. He took an impressive entourage with him—the elders of Israel followed him—hoping this would encourage Dathan and Aviram to defer.13

26But Dathan and Aviram remained adamant, so Moses spoke to the congregation saying, “Please get away from the tents of these wicked men, and do not touch anything of theirs, lest you perish in the debacle that is about to befall them because of all their sins.”

27 So most of the people withdrew from around the dwellings of Korach, Dathan, and Aviram, indicating that they had abandoned Korach and returned to follow Moses. But Dathan and Aviram came out of their tents, standing defiantly upright at the entrance of their tents, together with their wives, their children, and their infants.

28 Moses said, “With this you shall know that God sent me to do all these deeds, appointing Aaron as the high priest, his sons as regular priests, and Elitzafan as the prince of the clan of Kehat, and that I did not devise this myself.

29 If these men die as all men die and the fate of all men be visited upon them, then God has not sent me.

30 But if God creates a new creation, namely, that the earth opens its mouth, swallows them and all that is theirs, and they descend alive into the grave, you will know that these men have provoked God, and that I have spoken only on His authority. If God created the earth with the potential to open its mouth, let this potential be manifest now. If He did not, let Him create it anew!

31 As soon as he finished speaking all these words, the earth beneath them split open.

32 The earth beneath them opened its mouth and swallowed Korach, Dathan, and Aviram14 and their households, even their little children, and all the men who were with Korach—other than the 250 men who were offering incense—and all their property. (Thus we see how serious contention is, for although children are generally not punished for their errors, here they were punished and actually perished.15)

33 They, and all they possessed, descended alive into the grave; the earth covered them up, and they were lost to the community. (Korach’s sons were also swallowed up, but because they had repented mentally16 they were not killed; God provided them with a place to live underground and allowed them to emerge 38 years later.17)

34 All the Israelites who were around them fled from the sound of their cries, for they said, “Let us flee, lest the earth swallow us up, too!”

35At the same time as Korach, Dathan, Aviram, and their supporters’ households were being swallowed by the earth, a fire came forth from God and consumed the 250 men who had offered up the incense. By punishing the 250 rebels together with Korach, God demonstrated that they were indeed guilty of his sin of general insurrection and not only of the error of aspiring to the high priesthood.18

17:1 God spoke to Moses, saying:

2Even though I agreed not to consider the rebels’ incense a sacrificial rite that would make them liable to the death penalty, their incense was still offered to Me. Therefore,19 say to Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest that he should pick up the censers from the burned area and throw the fire (i.e., coals) in them away, because they have become sanctified by having been used to offer incense to God and are therefore forbidden from now on for profane use.

3These are the censers of those who sinned knowing that it would cost them their lives. The artisans shall make them into flattened-out plates as an overlay for the Outer Altar, for they brought them before God, and they have therefore become sanctified. They shall serve as a reminder of this rebellion for the Israelites.”

4 So Eleazar the priest took the copper censers which the fire victims had brought, and the artisans hammered them out as an overlay for the Altar,

5 as a reminder for the Israelites, so that no layman, who is not descended from Aaron, shall approach to burn incense before God, so as not to be like Korach and his company, as God spoke through Moses regarding Aaron.

6 The following day, the entire congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron saying, “You have killed the people of God. This incense is evidently a lethal potion. It killed Nadav and Avihu, and now the 250 judges.

7 But while the congregation was assembled against Moses and Aaron, they turned to the Tent of Meeting, and behold, the cloud had covered it, and the glory of God appeared.

8 Moses and Aaron, understanding this as a sign that God wanted to address them, came to the front of the Tent of Meeting.

Fourth Reading 9 God spoke to Moses, saying:

10The fact that the people are complaining about the fate that befell Korach and his supporters—and still insinuating that all the people are equally holy, ‘the people of God’20—indicates that they have, in fact, subscribed to his views. You can no longer argue that only Korach is guilty and they have merely been swept along by the spirit of the moment.21 Therefore, I have no choice: remove yourselves from this congregation, and I shall consume them in an instant.” Moses and Aaron fell on their faces, for they were now at a complete loss as to how to pray for the people.22

11As God has said would happen when the boundaries between the spiritual classes of the people are breached,23 the people began to perish from the plague. But fortunately, Moses remembered that when he was in heaven receiving the Torah, the Angel of Death had told him that incense wards off the plague. Moses now asked God if this is how he should stop the plague, and God concurred. So Moses said to Aaron, “Take the censer, put fire from the top of the Altar into it, and take it quickly to the congregation and atone for them, for the Angel of Death, the instrument of Divine wrath has gone forth from God, and the plague has begun.”

12 Aaron took the censer, just as Moses had said, and he ran into the midst of the community, and indeed, the plague had begun among the people. He placed the incense on it and atoned for the people.

13 He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague ceased.

14 The number of dead in the plague was 14,700; this was besides those who died because of the matter of Korach.

15 But the Angel of Death protested that Aaron was preventing him from carrying out God’s command. Aaron replied that he was acting on Moses’ orders, and Moses only does what God tells him to. Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting together with the Angel of Death, and there they asked God who was right. God said that Aaron was right, and thus the plague was stopped. God thus demonstrated to the people that just as the incense can kill, it can also save from death, and that it is only sin that brings punishment.

Fifth Reading 16By having the earth swallow some of the rebels, God proved conclusively that He selected Moses to be His emissary; by burning the rebels who offered the incense, God proved that He wanted Aaron to be the high priest. But beyond this, God also wanted to demonstrate that Aaron deserved this distinction on his own merits—not because of Moses’ merits, and despite his role in the incident of the Golden Calf. Therefore,24 God spoke to Moses, saying:

17 “Speak to the Israelites and take from them a staff for each paternal house—that is, one from each of their tribal princes according to their fathers’ houses, a total of 12 staffs—and inscribe each man’s name on his staff.

18In addition,25 take Aaron’s staff and inscribe Aaron’s name on the staff of Levi, for even though the tribe of Levi is divided into priests and Levites, there is nonetheless only one staff for the head of their fathers’ house.

19 You shall place these 13 staffs in the Tent of Meeting before the Ark of the Testimony where I commune with you.

20 The staff of the man whom I will choose will blossom, and I will thus calm the Israelites’ complaints that they complain against you, ridding Myself of them.”

21 Moses spoke to the Israelites, and each of their princes gave him a staff, one for each prince according to their fathers’ houses, a total of 12 staffs, and together with them, Moses put Aaron’s staff amidst their staffs in the middle, so they could not say that it blossomed because it was closer to the ark.

22 Moses placed the staffs before God in the Tent of Meeting, which housed the Ark of the Testimony.

23 On the following day, Moses came to the Tent of the Testimony, and behold, Aaron’s staff for the house of Levi had blossomed. Specifically, it gave forth blossoms, these flowers dropped off, and the staff sprouted buds, and then produced ripe almonds. This signified that just as almonds ripen quickly, so will someone who opposes the selection of the priesthood be punished quickly.

24 Moses took out all the staffs from before God and showed them to the Israelites, together with the flowers that fell off Aaron’s staff before it sprouted almonds. They saw, and each man took his staff. By showing them the fallen flowers as well as the sprouted staff, Moses showed them that God had miraculously made the staff flower and produce fruit, but did so following a plant’s natural progression of growth. This indicated that God had chosen Aaron for the priesthood of His own volition, but that the priesthood thereby had become Aaron’s own nature, and he was therefore suited for the priesthood by virtue of his own, intrinsic merits.26

Sixth Reading 25To further indicate that Aaron’s priesthood was intrinsic,27 God said to Moses, “Put Aaron’s staff back in front of the Ark of the Testimony as a remembrance and a sign for rebellious ones that I have chosen Aaron’s descendants to be priests, and that this decision will never be revoked. This will put an end to their complaints against Me. I will then not have to punish them and they will not have to die.”

26 Moses did so. He did just as God had commanded him.

27 The lay Israelites finally accepted the distinction between themselves and the priests, but they still spoke to Moses, saying, “Behold, because of this distinction we are in constant danger of dying, we will perish, we are all lost!

28We are freely allowed into the courtyard of the Tabernacle, but whoever comes too close and even mistakenly enters the Tabernacle of God will die! Have we been consigned to being constantly afraid that we might perish in this way?”

18:1God therefore reiterated His commands to the tribe of Levi to guard the Sanctuary precincts from encroachment by the laity, this time making the Levites accountable if they fail to prevent it. God said to Moses to tell Aaron, “You, your sons—that is, the priests—and your paternal house—that is, the Levite clan of Kehat—shall bear the iniquity associated with the Sanctuary. You will be punished if any layperson inadvertently touches what is entrusted to you—the furnishings of the Tabernacle and their utensils28—so keep watch that they stay away from them. In addition, you and your sons with you shall bear the iniquity associated with your priesthood, that is, you will be punished if any Levite tries to do anything only a priest may do, so make sure they do not try to.

2 Enlist also your other brethren from the tribe of Levi, your fathers’ tribe—i.e., the clans of Gershon and Merari—and they shall join you in guarding the Sanctuary precincts from encroachment by the laity by preventing laypeople from touching what is entrusted to their clans, and they shall also minister to you by serving as entrance guards, treasurers, and supervisors. But again, only you and your sons with you may serve as priests before the Tent of Testimony.

3The Levites shall keep your charge and the charge of the Tent of Meeting, but they shall not approach the holy vessels or the Altar, so that neither they nor you will die.

4 They shall join you, and they shall keep the charge of the Tent of Meeting for all the service of the Tent, taking care that no layperson come near you when you are performing your duties.

5 You shall keep the charge of the Sanctuary and the charge of the Altar, so that there be no more Divine wrath directed against the Israelites, as there was after the people complained that Moses and Aaron killed God’s people.29

6 I have therefore taken your brethren, the Levites, from among the Israelites; they are given to you as a gift for use in the service given to God, that is, to perform the service of the Tent of Meeting, serving as entrance guards, treasurers, and supervisors.

7 And you and your sons shall guard your priesthood in all matters concerning anyone else touching the Altar outside the Tent of Meeting, and concerning anyone else touching what is within the veil at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, and you must make sure that only you serve as priests. I have given your priesthood to you as a gift of service, and you will bear the responsibility for any layperson who approaches inadvertently; but any layperson who approaches on purpose shall die.”

Donations to be Given to the Priests

8God now listed the donations the people must give Him and that are to be given to the priests in exchange for their responsibilities. We would have expected these laws to have been given in the Book of Leviticus, in the context of the other laws pertaining to the priesthood, but God gave them here in order to indicate the irrevocability of Aaron’s appointment—even beyond that which was indicated by having Aaron’s staff blossom and give fruit. The fact that some of these gifts are given to the priests even outside the context of their Temple service proves that the priesthood is theirs even when they are not serving as priests.30 God told Aaron, “Behold, I have joyfully given you the charge of safeguarding My raised-offerings from defilement. By giving you this responsibility I have thus given you all the holy things that the Israelites give to Me. I give them to you as a sign of eminence and as an eternal portion for your descendants.

9Specifically, these shall be yours from the sacrifices classed as holiest of the holy, from the time the fire begins to consume the portions of them placed on the Altar: the flesh of all the Israelites’communal peace-offerings (i.e., the two lambs that accompany the two loaves offered on Shavuot),31 their grain-offerings,32the flesh of their sin-offerings,33the flesh of their guilt-offerings,34andgoods that were robbed from an heirless convert who has since died, which they return to Me because there is no one else to return them to.35 The sacrifices just mentioned shall be treated as holiest of the holy by you and by your sons:

10 you shall eat it only in the place where the holiest of the holy sacrifices may be eaten, the courtyard of the Tabernacle. Any male priest may eat of it; this is how it shall be treated as holy by you.

11 This shall also be yours: what is separated as the Israelite’s gifts to Me from all their wave-offerings—i.e., one from each of the three sets of 10 loaves accompanying thanksgiving-offerings;36 the breast and right thigh of personal peace-offerings;37 and the breast, right thigh, and foreleg of the peace-offering of the Nazirite and two of its 20 accompanying loaves.38 These offerings are classed as less holy, so I have given them not only to you and to your sons but also to your daughters with you, as an eternal portion. Any ritually clean member of your household—including your wives—may eat it anywhere in the camp.

12 The choice portion of the olive oil and the choice portions of the wine and grain, the first of which the Israelites must give to God39—I have given them to you.

13 The first fruit of all that grows in their land, which they must bring to God40—it shall be yours; any ritually clean member of your household may eat of it.

14 Any dedicated entity41 in Israel shall be yours.

15 Every first issue of the womb of any creature whose first issue they are required to present to God,42 whether of human or beast, shall be yours. However, you must have the firstborn son of a human redeemed, and you may have the firstborn male of the unclean animal to which this law applies—the donkey43redeemed.

16The redemption of the firstborn male human shall be performed from the age of a month, according to the endowment stated elsewhere,44 i.e., five shekels of silver according to the Sanctuary shekel, which is 20 gerah.45

17 However, you shall not have a firstborn ox or a firstborn sheep or a firstborn goat redeemed, for they are to treated as holy sacrifices: their blood shall be sprinkled on the Altar and their fats shall be burned as a fire-offering to please God,

18 but their flesh shall be yours. It is classed as less holy, just like the waved breast and the right thigh of personal peace-offerings, and therefore it shall be yours to be eaten by yourselves, your wives, your children, and your households, during the two days and intervening night after it is slaughtered.

19In summary: I have given all the separated portions of the animals sanctified asofferings that the Israelites set aside for God to you and to your sons and daughters with you, as an eternal portion. Finally, in order to indicate that the priesthood will remain with Aaron’s descendants even after the Temple is destroyed, when they cannot serve actively as priests at all,46 God said that “it is an eternal covenant before God similar to the one He made with salt, that not only never decays but even acts as a preservative, for you and your descendants with you. You will retain the priesthood forever, and by guarding the Sanctuary you will preserve the lives of your fellow Jews.

20 God said to Aaron, “I have given you all these gifts in order to relieve you from the burden of farming the land in order to make a living, so that you can devote yourselves to My service on behalf of the people. Therefore, you shall not inherit any portion of their land, and you shall have no portion among them in the spoils of war. I am your inheritance and portion among the Israelites.

Donations to be Given to the Levites

Seventh Reading 21 “And to the Levites I have given all agricultural tithes of Israel47 as an inheritance, in exchange for their service which they perform—the service of the Tent of Meeting.

22The Levites must ensure that the lay Israelites no longer approach the Tent of Meeting, lest they become guilty of sin and die.

23 The Levites shall perform the service of the Tent of Meeting on behalf of the people,48 and they will bear the guilt of the people’s iniquity if they enter the Tent; this is an eternal rule for all generations. Like the priests, they shall have no land-inheritance among the Israelites,

24 for I have given the tithes of the Israelites to the Levites as an inheritance. These tithes are not holy (and may be eaten anywhere and in any state of purity), but until the Levites separate the priests’ portion (as will be described), this tithe is considered as holy as any other elevation-offering that any Israelite sets aside for God by virtue of the priests’ portion still within it, and the Levites may not eat it. This is why I have said to them that they shall have no land-inheritance among the lay Israelites.”

The Levites' Donations to the Priests

25God thus finished addressing Aaron regarding the gifts given to the priests and Levites in exchange for their responsibilities. God now spoke to Moses regarding the Levites’ obligation to give a portion of their gifts to the priests, saying:

26 “Speak to the Levites and tell them, ‘When you take the tithe from the Israelites which I have given you from them as your inheritance, you shall set aside from it a gift for God, a tithe of the tithe.

27 Your gift shall be considered for you as holy as the priestly portions that the laity separate from their agricultural produce, the grain from the threshing-floor and the produce of the vat—that is, wine and olive oil—and all the laws that apply to their priestly portion apply to yours.

28 So shall you too set aside a gift for God from all your food supply, which in your case is the tithes you take from the Israelites, and you shall give therefrom God’s gift to Aaron the priest.

29If you receive your tithe from the layperson before he has set aside the priest’s portion from his produce, then from all such gifts, you must set aside all the gifts due to God, i.e., both the priest’s portion he has to set aside and the 10 percent of what you have received from him. The priest’s portion, that part of it which is to be consecrated, must be set aside from its choicest portion.’

Maftir 30 Say further to them, regarding the priest’s portion they must set aside from their tithes: ‘After you set aside its choicest part, the remainder shall be considered for the Levites as non-holy produce from the threshing-floor and as produce from the vat.

31 You and your household may eat it anywhere, for it is your wage in exchange for your service in the Tent of Meeting.

32 After you separate the choicest part from it for the priest, you shall not be guilty of any sin on account of eating or defiling the rest of it. But before that, you will incur guilt by eating or defiling it; you will have stolen the property of the priests, and you will have to pay for it. Similarly, you shall not profane the sanctified produce of the Israelites—their tithes that they have given you but from which you have not yet set aside the priests’ portion—by eating them, so that you shall not die.’ ”49