Contributed by: R. Eric Mizrahi
You shall tithe the entire crop of your planting, the produce of the field year by year. And your shall eat before Hashem, your God, in the place that He will choose to rest His name there- the tithe of your grain, your wine, and your oil, and the firstborn of your cattle and your flocks, so that you will learn to fear Hashem, your God, all the days. (Devarim 14: 22-23)
The verse above refers to the Second Tithe, the maaser sheni, which is the separation of one tenth from the remaining produce (after giving the Teroumah to the Kohen, and the First Maaser to the Levi). During the seven year shemittah cycle, in years 1,2,4,5 this maser sheni was taken to Jerusalem by the fields owner and eaten there. On years 3,6 the produce was given to the poor.
When reading the entire passage, we do not readily understand the connection between the missvah of maaser, and learning to fear Hashem. The maaser can be compared to a tax, just as one must give tax to the government, one must give part of his wealth to the Kohen and Levi, and perform certain missvot with it. But how does this effect ones fear of the Boreh?
As a clue, the language of the verse, You shall tithe, in Hebrew reads as: Aser Teaser a phrase using double language. On a simple-level meaning, this doubling is employed for emphasis, you should verily sureily tithe your crop.
The gemara in Maschet Taanit explains the doubling language in a homiletic way Aser, separate the tithe, Teaser, so that you will become wealthy, in Hebrew, SheTeasher. Effectively read the Sin in Hebrew as a Shin, which flips the words to mean to become wealthy.
From this derasha, we learn that our rabbis allowed us to perform the missvah of the tithe with the intention to become wealthy. As we see in a verse later in the Tanakh, Hashem desires us to test Him, fulfill the missvah, and then see how they will become wealthy. We do not see such a concept by other misvot. Perform a missvah and test Hashem to see the reward?
The Hatam Sofer explains that the Torah spoke against the Yeser Harah the evil inclination. People have the natural feeling to not want to part with their wealth, even if performing a missvah. Therefore, in this circumstance, and this circumstance alone, the Torah promises that Hashem will reward the giver with wealth, and one can be so certain of this reward, that one can test Hashem on it.
However, this reward does not come free. The ending of the verse states: so that you will learn to fear Hashem, your God, all the days. This refers to ones learning Torah, and from that learning, come to fear the Creator. Meaning, the wealth that is promised, the wealth that Hashem wants you to test Him on, does not come without any strings attached. Once one has received this wealth, the tables are turned, and one is tested to see if one is spending more time learning Torah. The wealth is not given in order for the giver to sit on it, and work to achieve more wealth. Rather, the wealth is a test for the individual, to work harder in order KNOW HIS CREATOR.