Nelly Shulman
Nelly Shulman

Sharing the fruit

In Deuteronomy 26:11, the last verse of the passage dealing with the ritual of bringing the first fruits, God commands us:

“And you shall enjoy, together with the Levite and the stranger in your midst, all the bounty that the LORD your God has bestowed upon you and your household.”

The commentators here discuss the obligation of the “stranger”, i.e. the convert in the blessing over the first fruit. Daat Zkenim says, “According to Rabbi Yehudah, the convert recites the same benediction as the natural-born Jew when bringing bikkurim. This is based on G–d having appointed Avraham as the ”father” of a multitude of nations in Genesis 17:5. Rabbi Joshua, son of Levi, stated that the Halachah is according to the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah.”

Good to know that. However, the meaning of this verse brings us deeper into the Torah’s understanding of human nature. We are rarely moved to share the products of our labor with anyone, especially with people who cannot give us anything in return. The Levite does not work on the land, and the stranger does not have the land. Why I, the hard-toiling person, should invite them to partake of the fruit of my work? What use are these people to the society, and why should I feed them?

Torah here reminds us that human society is a complicated tapestry of different people all created in the image of God. Everyone around us has a right to their portion, has a right to rejoice and thank their Creator. It is a mitzvah to help them to do so. Thus we are commanded to open our homes and our hearts to them.

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.
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