Mandatory Contributions and their Redemption Values

May 10, 2015

אַךְ־בְּכוֹר אֲשֶׁר־יְבֻכַּר לַיהֹוָה בִּבְהֵמָה לֹא־יַקְדִּישׁ אִישׁ אֹתוֹ אִם־שׁוֹר אִם־שֶׂה לַיהֹוָה הוּא׃

A firstling of animals, however, which—as a firstling—is Hashem's, cannot be consecrated by anybody; whether ox or sheep, it is Hashem's.

Leviticus 27:26

אֵלֶּה הַמִּצְוׂת אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהֹוָה אֶת־מֹשֶׁה אֶל־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּהַר סִינָי׃

These are the commandments that Hashem gave Moshe for B'nei Yisrael on Har Sinai.

Leviticus 27:34

The Book of Leviticus concludes with the redemption of firstborn animals and tithes. Unlike the previous section, that dealt with voluntary contributions, the redemptions here apply to obligatory contributions.

 

The firstborn of any animal is automatically dedicated to God, but if it is unclean, such as a donkey, it must be redeemed for its value plus a fifth. If the owner does not redeem it, it must be sold.

 

The people are commanded to dedicate tithes from both their crops and their flocks. Crops can be redeemed in part for their value plus one fifth, but animals cannot. If someone tries to substitute one animal for another, both animals become consecrated.

 

The Israel Bible explains the nature of the tithe of produce mentioned in this chapter. It is called the second tithe, because the first tithe is dedicated to the Levites. After that has been separated, the farmer must take another tenth and bring it to Jerusalem, where he eats it in holiness. Since this might be too cumbersome, he can redeem the produce for money and use it to buy food when he arrives in Jerusalem. The holiness of the tithe transfers to the money and finally to the food bought in Jerusalem. The entire system of tithing serves as a reminder that everything we have is a gift from God, and not the result of our own work.

 

The above notwithstanding, anything — or anyone — that has been segregated or excommunicated cannot be redeemed by paying the Temple treasury. In fact, a person who has been segregated for death must be executed, and no amount of money can save him.

 

Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think crops can be redeemed but animals cannot?

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