Even a short visit to Jerusalem uplifts the soul, providing a strong reminder of the impact our environment has on us–and especially our children!
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Re’eh” (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17) and it is mitzva-packed! In fact, nearly 10% of all the mitzvot in the Torah can be found in this week’s reading!
One of the mitzvot we read about is the mitzva of “ma’aser sheini” (“second tithe”), which is the requirement for farmers who live in the land of Israel to bring 10 percent of their produce to Jerusalem and eat it there. Alternatively, they could “redeem” the produce for its financial value, and spend that amount of money on produce in Jerusalem.
Either way, a farmer was required to make an occasional trip to Jerusalem.
The Torah rarely gives the reason for the mitzvot, but ma’aser sheini is one of the few mitzvot for which the reason is given: “so that you learn to fear God.”
The question is asked: how does the mitzva of ma’aser sheini increase fear of heaven? How could going on a shopping spree in Jerusalem, grabbing a falafel in a restaurant there, or eating your freshly harvested pomegranates there lead one to have more fear of heaven?
What’s going on over here?
It is explained that the reason ma’aser sheini leads to a greater fear of heaven is because this mitzva requires people to be IN JERUSALEM.
Think about it: Back then, as is the case today, Jerusalem was the center of holiness. Jerusalem houses Judaism’s holiest sites, and the rabbis of Jerusalem have typically been the most pious and learned in the world. It was the place of the Holy Temple where open miracles occurred daily. The site of the High Priest, the Bible coming to life, and the list goes on and on!
There truly was no place like Jerusalem!
And this is why the mitzva of ma’aser sheini led one to have greater fear of heaven. That’s what spending time in Jerusalem does to a person!
Walking the streets and even breathing the air of Jerusalem is inspiring and spiritually arousing. As it is now, and as it was then, a person cannot experience Jerusalem without it having some effect on the person. No matter how distant a person is from God or religion, spending time in Jerusalem has an impact and an influence.
We see from here that a people’s environment can have a tremendous effect on them. How much more so for children.
The mitzvah of ma’aser sheini, and its benefits, offer a timeless lesson for parenting: make sure your children are immersed in “kosher” and wholesome environments. Osmosis is a very powerful force, and we need to make sure that we, and especially our children, are influenced only by positive things!
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.
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