פרשת אמור - Parashat Emor
וּבְקֻצְרְכֶם אֶת קְצִיר אַרְצְכֶם לֹא תְכַלֶּה פְּאַת שָׂדְךָ ....לֶעָנִי וְלַגֵּר תַּעֲזֹב אֹתָם
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
Rabbi Benayahu Bruner
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:
וּבְקֻצְרְכֶם אֶת קְצִיר אַרְצְכֶם לֹא תְכַלֶּה פְּאַת שָׂדְךָ בְּקֻצְרֶךָ וְלֶקֶט קְצִירְךָ לֹא תְלַקֵּט לֶעָנִי וְלַגֵּר תַּעֲזֹב אֹתָם אֲנִי ה' אֱלֹקיכֶם
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.