By Rabbi Moshe Mayerfeld
We have recently seen a wave of excellent campaigns in an attempt to raise awareness and money for charity. ‘No make-up selfies’ and ‘ice bucket challenges’ have together raised millions of pounds for worthwhile charities.
The Torah, hailing from a pre-Facebook era, gives us other tools to ensure we learn to be givers and share with others. In this week’s sedra, we are told that when you plow your field and accidentally leave behind a bundle, you may not go back to retrieve it. Rather, it should stay there for the benefit of orphans or widows – in order that G-d may bless you in all the work of your hands.
Rashi compares this commandment to a situation when someone drops a coin and a poor man finds it – the owner of the coin is then blessed through this. Upon reflection, this is a somewhat perplexing analogy for Rashi to make. In the case of the forgotten produce, the person is aware of what he left in the field and deliberately leaves it there for the benefit of the poor, a commendable action deserving of reward. However when one loses something, he is not conscious of this and did not intend to leave it for the poor. It is a lovely outcome of his loss that someone in need benefited, but it seems very different than our parsha’s lesson.
Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch reflects on the specific terminology “when you plow your field”, that even as you are harvesting your hard work and you feel the pride of your efforts, you must realise that gifts of the earth come from God, who gives them so that all can share in His benevolence.
Actually the association is a good one and teaches us a valuable lesson. As soon as the farmer forgets the item in the field, it automatically becomes forbidden to him to retrieve it. The Torah says “you shall not go back and take it”. By abiding by this law, it would seem that the farmer has not done anything particularly meritorious, since according to the Torah this sheaf is no longer his – and as such retrieving it would be akin to stealing. Yet once the poor acquires it, the Torah credits the farmer even though he is no longer the owner. The message we learn from Rashi is that whenever the poor and needy benefit from someone – even indirectly – he will be rewarded!
If we internalise the value of the gifts we have and constantly think how we can share them with others, perhaps we will benefit to be the ones who start the next campaign to raise millions of pounds for charity, directly or indirectly.
• Moshe Mayerfeld @mmayerfeld, is director of Aish UK and rabbi at Shomrei Hadath Synagogue