This Week in Torah
This week we continue in the book of with . Our torah portion talks about the , the priests, descendants of Aaron, and the restrictions placed upon them. The also explains when certain holidays fall during the year. The first holiday that is explained is followed by and the counting of the . The Day of Atonement, , and are mentioned as well later on in the portion.
There is one specific verse in Parshat Emor that contains a very important commandment. In Leviticus 23:22, we read, “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.” The purpose of this commandment is to leave food in your field for the poor under the assumption that if a person was wandering through fields, he or she would know that there would be food for them.
In the Mishneh Torah, Ramban lists eight levels of charity, each greater than the next. The practice mentioned in Leviticus 23:22, leaving food for the poor, falls under the first level of this list. The person who is leaving food in their field does not know who will be taking the food. As well, the giver is never publicly recognized for the gift. Among other things, this practice demonstrates hospitality to strangers. The beautiful thing about the Jewish people is that we are all responsible for the well being of the community. There is a beautiful saying, , 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 middah, or value expressed in this commandment.
Today, most of us are not farmers. The concept of leaving food in our fields for the poor is not relevant in our lives; however, this does not mean that we are exempt from this commandment. There are other ways that we can “leave food” in our fields for strangers, such as participating in TEE’s High Holy Day annual food drive.
I encourage you to think about how you might be a strong part of our kehillah kedosha, our sacred Jewish community. Be it working with TEE’s Tikkun Olam committee, helping to prepare and serve food at a local shelter, or preparing and serving food on Monday nights at TEEn Kollel, you are participating in keeping the community strong. You are leaving the crops in your field for others, and this is an admirable act of loving-kindness.
Cantor Diane Yomtov