By Rabbi Benayahu Bruner; Centre for Orthodox Religious Affairs in the Diaspora – www.wzo.org.il
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“And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not make clean riddance of the corners of your field … you shall leave them to the poor and to the stranger”
In this week’s Sedra of Emor, we read Parashat HaMoadot – the section about the holidays. The Torah reviews all the Jewish holidays from Passover to Sukkot in detail. Such a lengthy review can only be found in this week’s Sedra and in the book of Bamidbar (Numbers) in Parashat Pinhas, which speaks of the Musaf offerings.
After the Torah teaches us about Passover and Shavuot, we read the following verse:
‘And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not make clean riddance of the corners of your field when you reap, neither shall you gather any gleaning of your harvest. You shall leave them to the poor and to the stranger, I am HaShem your G-d.”
The Torah commands us not to reap the entire field, but to leave a corner of the crops, and not to gather up the ears of corn that fall during harvest, because they are intended for the poor and strangers. Why did the Torah speak of these commandments while talking about the holidays? We have already learned them in last week’s Sedra, Parashat Kedoshim! The Midrash (Torat Kohanim) asks this question, and it appears in Rashi’s commentary on the Torah:
Why did the Torah write of these in between the Regalim holidays? To teach you that whoever practices Leket [gleaning], Shikheha [forgetting], and Pe’ah [corner] and Ma’aser Ani [poor tithe] is regarded as having the Temple exist in his day and having sacrificed his offerings in it, whereas whoever does not practice these is regarded as having the Temple exist in his day and not having sacrificed his offerings in it.
These commandments appear after the list of offerings for the festival of Shavuot and that leads the Midrash to say that they are equivalent to the sacrifices. Why does the Midrash liken the commandments of gifts to the poor to making offerings in the Temple?
Nahmanides does not quote the Midrash, but answers the question it raised about why the Torah integrates these commandments into Parashat HaMoadot. He says that since the Torah is speaking of the Omer and the double portion of bread brought to the Temple from the new year’s crop, the farmer might have mistakenly thought that the Mitzvot of the crop associated with the Temple exempt him from giving gifts to the poor. Therefore the Torah emphasizes the absence of such an exemption. One might reach a similar conclusion from the Midrash – that gifts to the poor are no less important than sacrifices offered at the Temple.
Rabbi Meir Simcha Hacohen of Dvinsk, in his commentary on the Torah entitled Meshekh Chokhma links between these commandments and the festival of Shavuot, the holiday of Matan Torah – the receiving of the Torah. Some believe that the Torah is essentially about Chukim – supra-rational commandments between man and his Creator, which we were commanded to observe at Sinai; whereas commandments that are Mishpatim, or rational, do not require a Divine revelation, but are rather known intuitively. And here, the Torah stresses that Mitzvot between man and his fellow man are no less important than those between man and G-d. if one lacks faith in Hashem, one might become corrupt, wrong others and fail to perform acts of loving kindness and justice with those he lives amongst:
Know that the Torah received during the festival was not only about Chukim [supra-rational Mitzvot], but also about rational politeness, such as kindness to the poor and strangers, for in the absence of faith in Hashem, the mind of man might be as a wild animal, and he shall fail to have mercy nor respect his father… that is why Hashem said that on that holiday you shall celebrate the receiving of the Torah – not the supra-rational laws alone, but the rational ones as well. Therefore the Torah says “And when you reap the harvest of your land…” but on the other hand also that “I am Hashem your G-d”.
The Meshekh Chokhma continues to say that this commandment of giving gifts to the poor was written after the festival of Shavuot, and is immediately followed by Rosh Hashana. The Bnei Israel perform many Mitzvot during the winter, because the field requires no work. However, during the spring and summer, when there is much work in the field and they are busy earning a living, how can they then stand before Hashem on Rosh Hashana, which is Judgment Day? Maybe it would have been best to have Judgment Day on Passover, immediately after winter? And the Meshekh Ghokhma answers: on Rosh Hashana man is judged for the way he has lived his life – man is given life if he himself has given life to others. Binyamin the Righteous is said to have passed Judgment Day and been granted longevity because he gave life to a woman and her children. But was he not righteous? Yet he did more than he had to, and gave of his own charity to give life to the forsaken, and for that he earned more days in this world and lived longer than initially intended. That is why the Torah commanded us to give gifts to the poor during the summer – so that we may pass Judgment Day on Rosh Hashana. And this is what he says:
When it says (Psalms 9:9) וְהוּא יִשְׁפֹּט תֵּבֵל בְּצֶדֶק – And he shall judge the world in righteousness – it means “due to its righteousness”. That is why (ibid, ibid) יָדִין לְאֻמִּים בְּמֵישָׁרִים– he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness – and He shall add life to Israel. Therefore it says: “you shall not make clean riddance … you shall leave them to the poor and to the stranger” – whether they are worthy or not. And therefore בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִי זִכְרוֹן תְּרוּעָה – In the seventh month a memorial of blowing of trumpets – meaning to say that is why Rosh Hashana was set to be Judgment Day on the seventh month.
Doing justice is the credit with which we enter Judgment Day on Rosh Hashana. If by making offerings in the Temple we seek intimacy with Hashem, He tells us in this week’s Sedra that by practicing social justice we are achieving such intimacy with Him and are regarded as having offered sacrifices at the Temple.
Rabbi Benayahu Bruner is a Zohar rabbi who heads the Beit Midrash of Safed’s Academic College. He is the rabbi of several communities in Safed, and formerly headed the local Yeshivat Hesder.
KOL HATOR Commentary
We have concluded in recent commentaries on the weekly Parashah how that HaShem is preparing His Servant (the reconciling members of the House of Judah and 10-Israel who are reconciling and re-uniting after 2700 years of Family enmity) to become His Light unto the Nations. They are thereby forming that Living Tabernacle thru which HaShem wishes to dwell amongst His People. This Restored Temple, as Rabbi Bruner emphasizes in this week’s Parashat Commentary, should then feature this highly important requirement to reach out to the poor, to “Connect the opposites,” as we have seen above (As also confirmed in this week’s Haftarah in Ezek. 44 – regarding ‘Restoration of the Tabernacle Service’). We have emphasized in our recent blogs the possibility that Corona will serve as a Wake Up Call to both Jews and the Reawakening House of 10-Israel (Ephraim) of the need to ‘reconnect their opposites’ of 2700 years.
One of the salient effects of Corona has been the rising re-awakening awareness amongst humans on the social and humane levels. Paradoxically, this is completely juxtaposed to the “physically distancing” between persons, even on the closer association level. While our safety calls for physical distancing, our survival drive motivates closer heart to heart and social connecting – even uniting on a humane level. Symptoms of this closer association can even be observed on international relationships. And it may become more evident once the disastrous financial implications set in in the aftermath of the LockDown. This alone should be a great factor for rejoicing. And, for us, it is in line with the Creator’s Plan for Humanity – especially at this Time of closing in on the Final Redemption or End Time (‘Starting Time’) scenarios. Significantly, this comes at the looming closure of the 6th Millennium, preceding the 7th or Sabbatical Millennium which will see the establishment of the Universal Kingdom of the Creator. We are currently in the year 5780 according to the Jewish calendar –220 years towards the Shabbat Millennium.
We have from the outset, in our contemplations about Corona and the possible Message that HaShem is conveying to us through it, construed that Judah (Judaism) needs to wake up to the fact that we have neglected to educate the World on Torah – an education which would negate the outbreak of such plagues. In this case, much as people do not like to admit the strong probability, Corona was ignited by the digesting by the Chinese of all types of ‘unclean meats’. There was a reason why the Creator defined edible meats – and not just for ‘religious’ reasons. Much as Judaism today claims the ‘sole rights and needs’ for observance of these Divine Guidelines for health, for Jews only, it is paradoxical that the main thrashing outfall of this plague is that strictly Kosher observing Jews are dying even at a higher than average rate, with the other Nations. Surely, there must be a Message in all this?
Ref. our Blogs (see Menu) since beginning April 2020. We have emphasized that IF this was Closing End Times, then there needs to be Reconciliation first between the outstanding Exiles of the Lost House of Israel (10 Tribes amongst the nations), and Judah. This means “connecting the total opposites of ‘Ephraim and Judah’ which encounters the Main Theme of Prophecy Ref. Bible Confirmations of the Restoration. So, Judah has to come to reach out to and accept their long lost family amongst the nations, and these lost Tribers, now awakening to Torah across the World, need to lay off their cultured hate of Jews, Rabbis and Torah and reach out and embrace their Jewish brothers who are in fact Divinely mandated to be their spiritual Guides in Torah. If Corona can bring this ‘Re-connection’ about, we can rejoice in whatever the price it demands from us.
ADDITIONAL SOURCES OF INFO AND INSPIRATION
- For further promotions of the KOL HATOR Awakening Call for Judah to reconsider their restricting of sharing the Torah with the entire World, ref. to the Face Book Page of ‘OvadYah Avrahmi’.
- Inspirational observations about the World before Corona and the World that we are now entering after: “Hindsights 2020 – the Great Realization of COVID 19”