A Unique Challenge
“Tithe, You Shall Tithe…”
Our daf relates the encounter between R. Yochanan and the young son of Resh Lakish, whereupon R. Yochanan asked the young man [as was the custom] to recite to him the verse that was taught to him that day. The young man responded by citing the pasuk in Parshas Re’eh (Devarim 14:22) “Aser te’aser eis kol tevuas zar’acha ha’yotzei ha’sadeh shanah shanah – Tithe, shall you tithe the entire crop of your planting, the produce of the field, year by year.” He then asked the Sage why the Torah repeats the word aser – tithe, [when it would have been sufficient to simply state aser once]? The Sage replied that we derive something very important from the repetition, and that is we tithe in order that you become enriched. The young man asked, from where do you know [the efficacy of] this? He replied, “Go and test it.” The young man questioned, “Surely the Torah (parshas Va’eschanan, Devarim 6:16) adjures against testing Hashem: “You shall not test Hashem, your G-d, as you tested at Massah.” R. Yochanan said that with respect to the giving of ma’aser one may, indeed, uniquely challenge Hashem, as the pasuk in Malachi (3:10) states: “…b’chanuni na b’zos… – …try me with this…”
With A Caveat
May one give charity for the purpose of attaining wealth? Meiri (ad loc) explains that R. Yochanan meant that one could feel certain that he will attain wealth as a reward for the giving of ma’aser, but he does not mean that one is permitted to perform that mitzvah solely for the sake of benefiting himself. He also notes that, even so, it’s possible for one to lose his potential wealth because of his sins.
Without A Caveat
The Sefer Hachinuch (Mitzvah 424) expresses a different view and maintains that the pasuk in Malachi teaches that regardless of one’s sins Hashem promises a reward of wealth for giving ma’aser and one is permitted to give ma’aser for the sake of testing Hashem [to see whether his reward is forthcoming as promised].
Radvaz (Vol 3:883) explains the reason for this exception [in the testing of Hashem] as regards charitable giving – to improve the lot of the poor who are dependant on such funds, and as such encourage people to give their charity generously. And Radvaz extends this permission to test Hashem beyond ma’aser to include all charitable giving.
There is a divergence of views in regard to this issue among the poskim – the halachic authorities, Tur (Yoreh De’ah 247) and Rabbenu Yonah (Avos 3:13) rule in accord with Radvaz. Beis Yosef [in his commentary to the Tur and as cited by Rema in his glosses to the Shulchan Aruch (YD 247:4)] is of the view that this dispensation is only given in regard to ma’aser and not other charitable giving. Ma’aser according to the Shelah (cited by Pishchei Teshuvah ad loc) refers only to ma’aser tevuah – the tithing of one’s produce but does not include ma’aser kesafim – charitable giving via one’s moneys.
A Final Thought
Yet since Rema cites Beis Yosef’s view as that of “yesh omrim – others [lit. ‘others say’], it is clear that in his view, permission to test Hashem applies to all charitable giving.