Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Ki Tavo- It Takes A Village


V’samachta vkhol-hatov asher natan-l’kha Adonai Elohekha ul’veitekha atah v’haleivi v’hageir asher b’kir’bekha.
And you will be happy for all the good that Adonai, your God has given to you, and into your house, you, and the Levite, and the stranger that is in your midst.
Almost ten years ago Hilary Clinton wrote a book called “It Takes a Village.” With the recent release of a tenth anniversary edition, the Dallas Morning News wrote, “A decade ago, then First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton chronicled her quest -- both deeply personal and, in the truest sense, public -- to help make our society into the kind of village that enables children to become smart, able, resilient adults. It Takes a Village is ‘a textbook for caring.... Filled with truths that are worth a read, and a reread.’” I remember when the book was released. For many, this idea seemed new in concept, but my thoughts were, “Of course. Doesn’t everyone know this?” It seems, however, that everyone does not know this, but we do. Judaism has known this for thousands of years. It is built into who we are and what we do. It is built into the reasons for our mitzvot. Care for others is a theme found throughout the Torah, the Mishnah, the Talmud, and beyond, right into many Jewishly founded tzedakot today.
Parashat Ki Tavo lays out the societal system that backs up this concept in the tithe system. This system of tithes was the first in history to provide security and care for a community. Previously, and for many generations to come in most societies, care of the downtrodden was left to families. If someone was without family, s/he was without care. Judaism built it into the society.
Who received the tithes? The first tithe went to the Levi’im as maintenance. Left without their own areas in the land of Israel, and with limited resources for support, this first tithe supported the Levi’im in return for their service to the community. It was meant to provide sustenance without creating a feeling if indebtedness. The Levi’im were not expected to take vows of poverty. The tithe instituted a system of fair compensation.
The second tithe had two purposes. Each year individuals made their annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Families needed to be able to support themselves while there and beyond. Like most sacrifices, it could redeemed in Jerusalem and eaten by those who brought it. The second tithe could also be redeemed for money, which could be spent in Jerusalem or back home. Finally, during every third year all tithes left unpaid needed to be paid. It was a time to even out all accounts. If you missed a pilgrimage now was the time to make up for it. These and any other money and materials collected in the third year was spent on the poor and needy for that year and the next two.
Amazon.ca had this to say about it taking a village: “It Takes a Village has become a classic. As relevant as ever, this anniversary edition makes it abundantly clear that the choices we make today about how we raise our children and how we support families will determine how our nation will face the challenges of this century.” We created this village thousands of years go, and have been working on it ever since.