Sheini, Sheini, Ani, Sheini, Sheini, Ani…Shemittah!By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
Moshe tells the Jews about maaser sheini, the “second tithe,” which was to be taken in most years of the seven-year Sabbatical cycle. (We’ll see the exceptions momentarily.) The first tithe was given to the Levites; the second tithe was to be eaten by its owners in Jerusalem. Since transporting this volume of produce could be difficult, especially for those far away, they were permitted to redeem the tithe for its cash value in silver. This money had to be spent on food to be eaten in Jerusalem, though it didn’t have to be limited to produce (e.g., they could buy meat). The whole family was to celebrate in Jerusalem, though this tithe was only taken after the Levite had been given his share.
However, in the third and sixth years of the Sabbatical cycle, maaser ani, the “tithe for the poor,” would be given instead. (See? Told you we were coming to that.) This tithe could be eaten by anyone with need. The needy will eat and be satisfied, and God will bless the ones who gave it to them.