Mitt Romney’s TithesFeb 5, 2012 at 03:43:36 AM
Aish.com contributor Yvette Alt Miller notes that with the release of Mitt Romney's income tax records, a spotlight has been thrown onto the whole concept of “tithing.” In a world where charitable giving is low (3.1% of people's income, on average, in the U.S.), Romney donating 10% of his income was big news.
Though donating 10% is also a widespread Jewish practice, it seems that nobody bothered to tell the media.
"Tithing is an ancient practice in the Hebrew Bible," the New York Times reported, "but is rarely observed now" outside of the Mormon community.
The Los Angeles Times went further, offering a pseudo-scientific overview of religious views of charity, and – at least in the case of Judaism – getting it utterly wrong. "Jews have no fixed amount of giving to charity, and usually make their major offerings to synagogues to buy seats for the High Holy Days," wrote the Times, suggesting that Jews pay to recite prayers in synagogue!
The view that Judaism doesn't emphasize charity is inside-out. The original concept of Ma'aser (literally "one tenth," hence the English word "tithe") comes straight from the Hebrew Bible, based on Leviticus 25:35, Deut. 14:22 and Deut. 15:7-8 which implores us to “Open your hand generously.”
The Bible is filled with examples: Abraham gave Malki-Tzedek one-tenth of all his possessions (Genesis 14:20); Jacob vowed to give one-tenth of all his future acquisitions (Genesis 29:22); and tithes are mandated to support the Levites (Numbers 18:21, 24) and the poor (Deut. 26:12).
These guidelines are practiced by Jews all over the world. Studies show that Jews have significantly higher rates of charitable giving than the general population, and rates of giving increase among those Jews who are more traditionally affiliated.
U.S. President Herbert Hoover said in 1923:
"I have frequently had cause to comment upon the extraordinary generosity and liberality of the American Jews in their charitable contributions. Indeed, their voluntary contributions exceed that of any other American group, and range from the stinted savings of the poorest workman to the full outpouring of those in more fortunate positions." (cited in Ada Sterling, The Jew and Civilization, 1924)
So the question remains: Who should we give to, and what’s the best way of doing so? For an excellent overview of the guidelines to Jewish charitable giving, see Rabbi Noah Weinberg’s “World Repairs” on Aish.com.
So you see, it's not only Mitt Romney who tithes. A little credit to the Jewish originators!