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According to several discussions in the Mishna, Ezra penalized the Levites who did not make Aliyah by giving the Maaser to the kohanim. But then there's an incident in the mishna (Maaser Sheini 5:9)

One whose produce was far away from him, he must call it by name. Once it happened that Rabban Gamaliel and the elders were traveling by ship, and Rabban Gamaliel said: “The tithe which I shall measure out in the future is given to Joshua, and the place which it is in is leased to him. The other tithe which I shall measure out in the future is given to Akiva ben Joseph that he may hold it for the poor, and the place which it is in is leased to him.” Rabbi Joshua said: “The tithe [taken from terumah] which I shall measure out is given to Elazar ben Azariah, and the place which it is in is leased to him,” and they each received rent one from another.

This indicates that Maaser was given in the ordinary way to Levites in those days. So what happened to Ezra's penalty?

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  • Can you source where the Mishna says that the Levites were penalized like this? Aug 16 '20 at 23:51
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    If I recall correctly Elazar be Azariah was a kohen. How do you know that Joshua was not a kohen Aug 17 '20 at 0:16
  • The Bartenura says that Joshua was indeed a Levite. He also explains in his perush of the last mishna of that chapter the knas of Ezra against the Levi'im. Aug 17 '20 at 9:03
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Tosafos (Kiddushin 27a, ד"ה נתון) addresses this. They give two possibilities:

  1. The Gemara (Yevamos 86b) cites an opinion that the penalty was that Maaser Rishon should be given specifically to poor Levi'im and Kohanim (where before it could be given to any of them, poor or rich). R' Yehoshua, as we find in another episode involving Rabban Gamliel (Berachos 28a), was poor.

  2. Rabban Gamliel held like the opinion of R' Akiva in Yevamos there, that before Ezra's takkanah Maaser Rishon was given only to the Levi'im, and after that it could be given to the Kohanim as well as to the Levi'im.

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