Read chapter 23 carefully, and you’ll find you’re seeing double. There are two openings and two closings, two sets of holidays, and two versions of Sukkot. This isn’t repetition, but a representation of the two types of holy time. There is holy time-out, and then there is holy time-in.
The paradigm of holy time-out is Shabbat. This is the holiness of pausing your creative work, taking a step outside, and taking stock. On a weekly basis, we experience this on the seventh day. On a yearly basis, in a more intense way, we do it in the seventh month, during the cycle of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, festivals called ‘Shabbaton‘.
But what about the rest of the time? This, too, is holy. “For six days you work”, the rabbis say, is also a mitzvah. This holiness, the active holiness of time-in, is given expression during the cycle of Pesach-Shavuot-Sukkot, busy, active holidays, full of sacrifices, rituals, obligations, and symbols. During these holidays, we take everything we gather, everything we produce, and we declare that it, too, is holy.
But there is a single verse, smack in the middle of the chapter, which doesn’t have anything to do with any of this. Which, of course, means that it has everything to do with all of this, and that it holds the key to an even deeper understanding of this concept.
In verse 22, a propos of almost nothing, the Torah repeats some laws of charity we already learned only a few chapters ago.
“And when you harvest the harvest of your land, don’t destroy the corner of your land as you harvest, and don’t collect the gleanings of the harvest, leave it for the poor and the stranger, I am the Lord your God.”
Some people don’t realize that there can be holiness in time at all. Some people recognize it, but only appreciate one type: either the holiness of time-out, without seeing how one’s daily life itself can be made holy, or the holiness of time-in, without appreciating the need to occasionally step outside and evaluate. And some people appreciate both types, but see them as utterly distinct. But the ultimate expression of holiness of time is when both types of holiness are brought together, and this is found in the mitzvot of leket and peah, which ask the person in the throes of creative activity to stop, to hold back, and to leave for those less fortunate.
A daily reflection on the 929 chapter of the day. Learn more about 929- it’s a wonderful, enriching challenge- 929.org.il.