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Emor 5779

As part of this week's Sedra (4th Aliya) we are given details of the various Festivals through the year. The section starts with a reminder to keep Shabbat, then discusses keeping Pesach and counting the Omer. In the middle of this list of festivals there is a verse with the Mitzvah of leaving a corner (Pe'ah) of the field unharvested as food for the needy and poor. (The word Pe'ah - many of us might associate more with sidelocks).

Leviticus 23:22. "When you reap the harvest of your Land, you shall not completely remove the corner of your field during your harvesting, and you shall not gather up the gleanings of your harvest. [Rather,] you shall leave these for the poor person and for the stranger. I am the Lord, your God."

Rashi comments that those who give food or money to the poor and needy are 'As if they built the Temple and brought sacrifices in it.'. Many other commentators discuss this verse, and also question why it is written in the middle of a list of festivals, where it seems somewhat out of place. 'You shall LEAVE these for the poor person....'. The owner must LEAVE the corner of the field and not just GIVE it to the poor - who must gather it for themselves. Our Sages note that the owner of the field could have simply helped the poor harvest the food, or harvested the whole field and made a gift of the corner section. However, if this were the case, the owner would feel that it was 'their' own gift to the poor of their own food. By making the owner LEAVE the corner, the owner will be in the mindset this was not 'their' gift, and that all ‘their’ own wealth and food is a gift from God. Leaving some for the needy is a divine commandment from the true ‘owner’ of the field.

And making the poor person gather their own food is far more dignified as they will have made an effort to collect their food, will not feel as embarrassed to be needing charity directly from another person’s hand, and also they will see this food as a direct gift from God - and not the owner - as the owner was commanded to LEAVE it for them.

LEAVE - teaches both the donor and the recipient that HaShem is in charge.

This is also one of the many lessons that Shabbat and the Festivals also teach us - and hence why the Mitzvah of Pe'ah does indeed slot in with the list of Festivals. That HaShem created and is in charge of the world - not us.

Simon Hodes

More documents on this Parshah: