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Rambam - Sefer HaMitzvos
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Negative Mitzvah 154

  Day 126Day 128  

Negative Mitzvah 154: We are forbidden to change the order of giving the various portions to the Priests and Levites
Exodus 22:28 You shall not delay to offer any of the fullness of your harvest and of the outflow of your (wine) presses"

One day, when Simi came home from school, she found a note from her mother on the kitchen table.

"Hello, Simi!", the note read. "I had to rush out on an errand and I'll be back in about two hours. Please do the following things when you get home:

  1. Soak two cups of beans;
  2. Take down the laundry;
  3. Buy a bottle of milk.

"P.S. Please do them in that order."

Simi was proud that her mother relied on her and she put down her books to get the beans. As she headed towards the kitchen, the doorbell rang.

"Who is it?"

"It's me! Judy!"

Simi opened the door to greet her friend.

"Hi, Simi," said Judy. "I'm going to the store for my mother.

Do you want to come with me?"

Simi remembered that her mother had asked her to buy a bottle of milk, and said, "Good idea, Judy. I have to get something for my mother, too!"

The girls did their shopping, chatting happily as they walked to the store and back. When they arrived at Simi's house, Simi said to Judy:

"Do you want to keep me company while I take the laundry down from the line? Nobody's home and I'll be bored."

"Sure," Judy answered immediately. "My mother won't mind and I'll help you, too."

The girls began to take down the laundry.

They enjoyed each other's company and talked a great deal.

Almost two hours had passed since Simi got home from school, but the girls hardly noticed.

Then Simi's mother came back home.

"Hi Mommy! I did what you asked me to," Simi said proudly, then almost at once added, "Oops! I forgot to soak the beans. I'll do that right now!"

"Oh! Simi," sighed her mother, dropping tiredly into a chair. "I specifically asked you to do that first!"

"But, Mommy, I went to the store and took down the laundry and I'm soaking the beans now, so it all got done anyway."

"I appreciate your help, Simi, but next time please follow my instructions exactly.

Sometimes, the order of doing things counts - especially if I specifically said so in my note.

You see, I asked you to soak the beans first, so that in the two hours I was away, they would have been soft enough to cook for supper.

Now they will take much longer to cook, and it's almost supper time."

This Negative Mitzvah cautions us not to change the order of separating the different gifts from our produce which we must offer to the Priests and Levites.

A certain part of the harvest grown in Eretz Yisrael must be set aside for the Priests and Levites, who devote their lives to the service of the Beit HaMikdash.

In order to ensure that the needs of the Priests and Levites were met, the Torah gave us Mitzvot which demand that parts of our crops or sacrifices must be set aside for them.

There was a specific order in which parts of the harvest had to be set aside.

It is as follows:

First the "Terumah" was set aside for the Priest, which usually amounted to one-fiftieth of the produce.

Then, from the remainder, one-tenth was given to the Levite.

This was known as "Ma'aser", which literally means, "one-tenth."

(It is also sometimes called "Ma'aser Rishon", meaning the first tenth.)

Both Terumah and Ma'aser had to be given every year.

In addition, there are two other types of Ma'aser that had to be given.

These were given according to the year within the seven year cycle of Shemitah.

In the third and sixth years of the seven year cycle, a "Ma'aser Ani" was set aside. This tenth was given to poor people.

On the first, second, fourth and fifth years of the seven year cycle, the "Ma'aser Sheini", the second tenth, had to be brought to Jerusalem.

The "Bikurim" which are the first-fruits, should be separated first.

Then the Terumah, which is given to the priest.

Afterwards, the Ma'aser Rishon, the first tenth which is given to the Levites, followed by the second tenth - Ma'aser Sheyni, which is brought up to Jerusalem and eaten there.

Everything must be done with joy. Even remorse can be with joy.


People imagine a place of G-dliness as serious, awesome and intrepidating. That fact is, where G-d is, there is joy. That is why our every moment is a moment to celebrate and fill with joy -- because at every moment we are fulfilling our mission of bringing G-dliness into this world. Not just through the obviously joyful matters, such as meditation, study, prayer and good deeds, but also our regular mundane activities and the ways we earn an income -- all are ways by which we know Him and bring Him into our world. And where G-d is, there is strength and joy.

From: Bringing Heaven Down to Earth by Tzvi Freeman -

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