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Question 12.36:
In Judaism, what are some of the laws related to gleaning and tithing for the poor?

Answer:

There are four gifts given to the poor:

  1. In the third and sixth year of the sabbatical cycle, the second tithe is given to the poor. This is given after the priests' gift of approximately 2% and the levites' tithe which comes to 9.8% (10% of the 98% that remains). So, we are talking about 8.64% or so.

  2. Fallen stalks: stalks dropped by the harvesters in ones or twos may not be picked up, but must be left for the poor. (If three or more fall, they may be picked up)

  3. Forgotten sheaves: if one or two bundles are forgotten when the grain is brought in from the field, you may not go back to get them, they are left for the poor. (Again, if three are more are left, you may bring them in for threashing.) For vineyards, this not only includes overlooked bunches of grapes, but there is also a law against taking one or two grapes left behind when a bunch is picked.

  4. A corner of the field must be left for the poor. For this, there is no measure; the farmer's conscience is his guide.

A couple of notes: We do not believe these numbers are rabbinic. Rather, they are part of an oral tradition that dates back to the giving of the law. Not every detail that God gave us is recorded in the Torah. In particular, measures for each law are rarely given in the text.

Second, these laws are viewed as being tied to the sanctity of the land of Israel and sactifying the Jewish settlement of that land. Non-Jewish citizens of Biblical Israel were not expected to give any of these. Nor were Jews who resided outside of Israel.


The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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© (c) 1993-2002 Daniel P. Faigin <maintainer@scjfaq.org>