Shavuot, the holiday of loving kindness

In Vayikra, Chapter 23, God commands Moshe to teach B’nai Yisrael about the holidays in the following order: Shabbat, Pesach, the Omer, Shavuot, Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. The list of the holidays flows smoothly until Shavuot and then we find one verse (sentence 22) which seems out of place:

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not remove completely the corners of your field and you shall not gather gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger. I am HaShem, your God.

This verse sounds very similar to what we read in Vayikra 19:9-10:

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not remove completely the corners of your field and you shall not gather gleanings of your harvest. You shall not pick your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger. I am HaShem, your God.

Rashi quoting the Sifra explains why the mitzvot of Peah (leaving an uncut portion of the field) and Leket (not collecting the gleanings of the harvest) are repeated here even though we already were commanded to observe these mitzvot just a few chapters earlier: To teach you that he who observes Leket, Shichecha (leaving the forgotten sheaf ) and Peah to the poor is regarded as though he built the Beit HaMikdash (Temple) and offered his sacrifices therein.

Sforno (Vayikra 19:9) explains that the Torah is teaching us how we can emulate God’s attributes. We are commanded to perform acts of Tzedek (righteousness) and Mishpat (justice). Such acts of charity include providing for the underprivileged out of the bounty that God has seen fit to grant us. Leket, Shichecha and Peah show our generosity towards the poor. The recognition of God as our God is demonstrated by our meticulously fulfilling these commandments relating to the time when we gather in our harvest. Just as God does Chesed (loving kindness) so too should we observe these mitzvot of charity that God commands us to keep.

In Breisheet 18:19, God speaks about Avraham and his future children following the path of God (Derech HaShem) doing Tzedek and Mishpat.

In Megillat Ruth which is read on Shavuot, we see Boaz following in the path of Avraham. Not only does he let Ruth (a widow, stranger and convert) glean in his fields, he tells his workers to treat her well and to even leave her extra sheaves. He invites her to eat with his workers and tells her to feel free to drink from the water that his reapers have drawn.

As we prepare for Shavuot and we bring home all kinds of delicacies, we must remember to walk in the footsteps of God and share what we have with those who are less fortunate. It is not just a nice thing to do, it is a mitzvah, a commandment as well as an integral part of the holiday.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
Related Topics
Related Posts
Comments