Torah im Small Jugs

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  1. Neil Harris says:

    This might be the most meaningful blog posting I’ve read in the past 3 years.

    Thank you.

  2. micha says:

    Neil, BTW, a tangent about tithing salt…

    In Ezra 4:14, the servants of King Igarta (Artaxerxes) of Persia explain that they must remain loyal to the king because כָּל-קֳבֵל דִּי-מְלַח הֵיכְלָא מְלַחְנָא “anyone who has taken the salt of the palace” should not look upon the dishonor of the king. In the ancient world, extracting edible salt was so difficult, kings often had the greatest supply. It also explains why our ancestors ate melach sedomis despite the risks — healthier salts were too pricey!

    In Chazal’s day, Rome, who are considered Edom and the descendants of Eisav (whether genetic or cultural), also paid their soldiers in salt. In fact, this is the origin of the word salary, from “sal” (salt).

    So it is possible that Chazal were saying Eisav was asking about maaser kesafim, but in order to highlight Eisav’s warring nature, they had him discussing his income in salt, not silver. In the other example, they used something closer to home, something someone in an agrarian society would grow, but not for food — straw.

    This thought only works according to those who say that maser kesafim is minhag or a minhag chassidus (ie just a hanhagah, not a binding minhag). Otherwise, the medrash wouldn’t fit with those who say the avos kept the entire Torah. Eisav’s question is being held up as an example of false piety. This wouldn’t work if maaser kesafim were deOraisa or deRabbanan, and thus something Yitzchaq, or even the author of the medrash and his original audience, would do.

    IOW, nowadays someone does need to tithe straw and salt, or at least the profit he made on them. So either maaser kesafim is newer than the medrash or the medrash means something very different from its usual understanding. Which I think argues against the acharonim who say maaser kesafim is halakhah. It’s not worth dwelling on too long, as an argument against the seriousness of maaser kesafim might hinder one’s giving….

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