The Rabbi's Study

The Centrality of Supporting the Vulnerable

In Parashat Kedoshim, the commandment to leave the corners of fields and designate that produce for the poor, as well as after-growth and dropped sheaves and so forth, is given over. So why is it repeated again in Parashat Emor? How does this second iteration of the same mitzvah influence our understanding? Rashi has the same question…

He explains that this mitzvah is repeated which then creates two prohibitions. Let’s compare the verses. In Parashat Kedoshim it says:

In your harvesting the harvest of your land, do not finish-off the corner of your field to harvest, and the gleaning of your harvest do not glean. Your vineyard do not prune, and the after-growth of your vineyard do not glean; for the poor and for the immigrant you will leave them, I am Hashem your God. (Lev. 19:9)

And in Parashat Emor it says:

In your harvesting the harvest of your land, do not finish-off the corner of your filed in your harvesting, and the gleaning of your harvest do not glean; for the poor and for the immigrant you will leave them, I am Hashem your God. (Lev. 23:22)

The concept, as I understand it, is that one mitzvah is emphasizing “do not finish…” and the other mitzvah is emphasizing “do not glean…” But Rashi continues by emphasizing a much more interesting question, not just why is it repeated a second time, but what here in this very particular location?

In Parashat Kedoshim the mitzvah comes amidst a litany of laws bridging civil and spiritual considerations. But in Parashat Emor it comes during the discussion of the holiday cycle in the calendar. Immediately preceding the verse we have the mitzvot of Passover, the counting of the Omer, and Shavuot – liberation to revelation; and following the verse we have the mitzvot of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot – forgiveness to celebration. So why is the mitzvah to leave the corners of our field emphasized here? Rashi brings a midrash:

Rabbi Avdimi with Rabbi Yosef said: Why does Scripture see to place the verse in the middle of the festivals – Passover, Shavuot on one side and Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot on the other side? To teach you that anyone who gives their gleaning, forgotten sheaves, and corner to the poor is worthy as if they have built the Temple and offered offerings within it.

Why? Because the Temple is the culmination of the bringing together of the journey from liberation to revelation, as the prophet said: From out of Zion Torah will emerge; and it is only through forgiveness, atonement, and celebration that we can remain in wholeness and integrity in that connection to the divine. At Passover we say, “Let all who are hungry come and eat”; at Yom Kippur we read in the Haftarah: “The fast I desire…is to share your food with the hungry…”

No letter unnecessary, no word superfluous, no placement inconsequential. The verse is centered in the middle of the calendar cycle to remind us of its centrality in our value system.

 

 

 

Sharing is caring

Check out the "Rabbi's Study" archive for Rabbi Goldstein's previous posts.