Posted on March 23, 2011
by Tyler Dratch
May 9, 2009/15 Iyar, 5769
This week we continue in the book of Vayikra with Parsha Emor. The parsha talks about the Kohanim, descendents of Aaron, and the restrictions they have. The parsha also explains when certain holidays fall during the year. The first holiday that is explained is Shabbat followed by Pesach and the counting of the Omer. Later the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot are mentioned as well.
While it may not be the most important line of the parsha, one specific verse strikes me as a very important commandment. “When you reap the harvest of your land you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather gleanings of harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger.” (Leviticus 23:22). The purpose of this commandment is to leave food in your field for the poor. If a person was wondering through fields, he or she would know that there would be food for them. This idea is not only fulfilling the commandment of tzedakah, but also creates a kihilah kedosha, or holy community, where everyone is looking out for each other.
When Rambam listed his levels tzedakah, this practice would be towards the top. The person who is leaving food in their field does not know who will be taking the food. The giver is also never recognized publicly for their gift. This practice also shows hospitality to strangers among other things. The beautiful thing about the Jewish people is that we are all responsible for the well being of the community. Kol yisrael averim zeh bah zeh, all of Israel is responsible for each other. This concept is what has kept the Jewish people together and strong for so many years, and is the key valued expressed in this commandment.
Today, most of us are not farmers. I am lucky enough to live near a farm, but for many of us there may not be farms near our houses. This concept of leaving food in our fields for the poor is not relevant in our lives; however, we are not exempt from this commandment. There are other ways we can “leave food” in our fields for strangers. By donating money to the USY Tikun Olam Program, we are fulfilling the commandment. While our money is allocated very carefully by regional officers, each USYer does not know exactly to whom the money is going. Also, each individual USYer does not receive credit for donating to a certain charity. We are donating without ever knowing the receiver.
As we relax this Shabbat, I encourage you to think about how you can be a strong part of the sacred Jewish community. If it involves delivering Shabbat meals to families who can not afford them, or volunteering in the synagogue Hebrew school, you are participating in keeping the community strong. You are leaving the crops in your field for others, and this is a very honorable act of kindness. Shabbat Shalom!