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The Torah Learning Library of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Looking Beyond Ourselves

by Rabbi Eitan Cooper (Posted on May 3, 2023)
Topics: Emor, Sefer Vayikra, Torah

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In the midst of describing all the holidays, Parsha Emor has a one pasuk break, in which we are commanded: 

וּֽבְקֻצְרְכֶ֞ם אֶת־קְצִ֣יר אַרְצְכֶ֗ם לֹֽא־תְכַלֶּ֞ה פְּאַ֤ת שָֽׂדְךָ֙ בְּקֻצְרֶ֔ךָ וְלֶ֥קֶט קְצִירְךָ֖ לֹ֣א תְלַקֵּ֑ט לֶֽעָנִ֤י וְלַגֵּר֙ תַּעֲזֹ֣ב אֹתָ֔ם אֲנִ֖י יְקֹוָ֥ק אֱלֹקֵיכֶֽם׃

And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I יקוק am your God (Lev. 19:9-10).

Many commentaries wonder what this mitzvah is doing here, as we are learning about the special mitzvot related to each chag. To answer this question we must look more closely at the placement of these pesukim—right after the holiday of Shavuot. 

The Bechor Shor notes that this time of year was the ikkar for the harvest, the most important part of the season. It was at this time that farmers were working their hardest, reaping the rewards from the hard work of their planting.

With this in mind, we can better understand the seemingly odd placement of this pasuk. As we read a long narrative all about how we are to observe the holidays, we may begin to grow too comfortable with our blessings. That is to say, we may come to feel that our bounty is ours, these holidays are ours, this is our time—our moadim that we are to enjoy. 

It is precisely at this moment that we need to be reminded of the great importance of being aware of those who are less fortunate, those who are needy, and our obligation towards them. Some may have a tendency to become self centered in our preparations for holidays, and here the Torah reminds us to look beyond ourselves even in—and perhaps especially in—moments of communal celebration. 

This work is holy, and in many ways just as important as celebrating the holidays themselves. The Chatam Sofer suggests that since Shavuot does not have a chol hamoed period like Pesach and Sukkot do, one might come to think that it is somehow a deficient holiday. The pasuk commanding us to leave our harvest for the poor makes the days after Shavuot קדוש כמועדים, according to this interpretation. 

As we continue on with the counting of the omer, reaping our harvest and collecting our blessings as we prepare for Shavuot, let’s all try to pause and remember those around us who are in need. 

Shabbat shalom!