1. Why is this obligation necessary?
2. How do we determine the limit of "fulfilling all of their needs" without making them wealthy?
בְקֻצְרְכֶם אֶת קְצִיר אַרְצְכֶם לֹא תְכַלֶּה פְּאַת שָׂדְךָ לִקְצֹר וְלֶקֶט קְצִירְךָ לֹא תְלַקֵּט: וְכַרְמְךָ לֹא תְעוֹלֵל וּפֶרֶט כַּרְמְךָ לֹא תְלַקֵּט לֶעָנִי וְלַגֵּר תַּעֲזֹב אֹתָם אֲנִי ה' אֱלֹהֵיכֶם:
When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the corners of your field, or gather the 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 Adonai your God. [JPS translation]
1. How is the system of leaving the corners and the gleanings and the fallen food for the poor different than donating food?
2. What practices or values from these laws could we integrate into our modern lives and societies?
1. According to this text, what is the best way to help a poor person? Why might this be the best way to help?
2. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
On the Environment, Abraham Joshua Heschel, "God in Search of Man," (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1976)
There are three ways in which we may relate ourselves to the world: we may exploit it, we may enjoy it, we may accept it in awe .... Suggested Discussion Questions What actions do we take towards the environment that represent these three options of how to relate to the world?
1. Do you think that there is a difference between the mitzvah of leaving the corners of your field unharvested and the mitzvah of not returning to pick up what was left or forgotten? If so, what is the difference?
2. According to these verses, how much of any harvest belongs to the “owner?” Why? What does this tell us about who really “owns” the land? the trees? the labor? the produce?
3. What is the value of having the needy come to harvest their own portion?
4. We do not live in an agricultural society today. Do you think this text has contemporary relevance? How might we apply this sense of mandatory sharing of our earnings to the world we live in?
(א) רְאֵה אֶת מַעֲשֵׂה הָאֱלֹהִים כִּי מִי יוּכַל לְתַקֵּן אֵת אֲשֶׁר עִוְּתוֹ, בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁבָּרָא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן, נְטָלוֹ וְהֶחֱזִירוֹ עַל כָּל אִילָנֵי גַּן עֵדֶן, וְאָמַר לוֹ, רְאֵה מַעֲשַׂי כַּמָּה נָאִים וּמְשֻׁבָּחִין הֵן, וְכָל מַה שֶּׁבָּרָאתִי בִּשְׁבִילְךָ בָּרָאתִי, תֵּן דַּעְתְּךָ שֶׁלֹא תְקַלְקֵל וְתַחֲרִיב אֶת עוֹלָמִי, שֶׁאִם קִלְקַלְתָּ אֵין מִי שֶׁיְתַקֵּן אַחֲרֶיךָ, וְלֹא עוֹד שֶׁאַתְּ גּוֹרֵם מִיתָה לְאוֹתוֹ צַדִּיק. מָשָׁל משֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ לְמָה הַדָּבָר דּוֹמֶה, לְאִשָּׁה עֻבָּרָה שֶׁהָיְתָה חֲבוּשָׁה בְּבֵית הָאֲסוּרִים, יָלְדָה שָׁם בֵּן, גִּדְלָה שָׁם וּמֵתָה שָׁם, לְיָמִים עָבַר הַמֶּלֶךְ עַל פֶּתַח הָאֲסוּרִים, כְּשֶׁהַמֶּלֶךְ עוֹבֵר הִתְחִיל אוֹתוֹ הַבֵּן צוֹוֵחַ וְאוֹמֵר אֲדֹנִי הַמֶּלֶךְ כָּאן נוֹלַדְתִּי, כָּאן גָּדַלְתִּי, בְּאֵיזֶה חֵטְא אֲנִי נָתוּן כָּאן אֵינִי יוֹדֵעַ. אָמַר לוֹ, בַּחֵטְא שֶׁל אִמְּךָ. כָּךְ בְּמשֶׁה, כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב (בראשית ג, כב): הֵן הָאָדָם הָיָה כְּאַחַד, כְּתִיב (דברים לא, יד): הֵן קָרְבוּ יָמֶיךָ לָמוּת.
When the Holy One created the human being, He took him and led him around all the trees of the Garden of Eden and said to him: Behold my works, how beautiful they are. All that I have created is within your domain. Take care, therefore, that you do not destroy My world, for if you do, there will be no one else to set it right after you.
Suggested Discussion Questions
Describe ways humanity “works” the earth. Are these good or bad or neutral? Describe ways humanity “protects” the earth. Are these good or bad or neutral?
Do these two concepts (of “working” and “protecting”) contradict or complement each other? How?
Pursue the meaning of “working” the earth. This could include exploring it, using it, developing it, changing it. It could include building upon it, damming the waters, harnessing its renewable energy, inventing materials, medicines, fabrics, farming, etc., to increase the quality of human (and animal) life. Does this midrash endorse such uses or not?
It seems to do so when it says, “All I have created is within your domain.” Humans have been given the world, according to the biblical story, and are instructed by the word “l’ovdah” (work it) to make it a better place. The question is: what is permissible in the arena of “working the earth” and what is not? When is it necessary and good to “protect and preserve” the world. L’shomrah has both meanings: as if the best way to protect something is to preserve it. Is that always the case? Do you find it compelling that a contemporary environmental ethic is reflected in this classical text? What differences do you notice between contemporary environmentalism and the perspective reflected in this text? What do you think about the idea that each individual has a personal obligation to protect the environment? How might that be different from making an individual contribution towards a collective effort?
עֹשֶׂה מִשְׁפַּט יָתוֹם וְאַלְמָנָה וְאֹהֵב גֵּר לָתֶת לוֹ לֶחֶם וְשִׂמְלָה: וַאֲהַבְתֶּם אֶת הַגֵּר כִּי גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם:
1. In what ways does this text suggest that we mimic God?
2. What is God's responsibility to us and what is our responsibility to others? What are the different sources of these responsibilities?
3. This text reminds the reader of Israelite slavery. In what ways is a history of slavery connected to doing justice and loving the stranger?
1. What are the people being accused of in this text? What are the connections between the various accusations?
2. How are the dynamics between rich and poor portrayed here?
3. In what ways do the punishments listed here match the crimes that brought them?
1. To whom do these rules apply?
2. What assumptions are made about the various players in the text?
3. Why is it so crucial that the worker is paid each day?
3. How does the poor person's crying cause a sin upon the employer? If the poor person does not cry out is the employer free of sin?
1. What is Rav's answer to Raba bar bar Hanan's first question of whether he was legally bound to return their clothes? What is his answer to the second question of whether Raba bar bar Hanan was legally bound to pay the workers their wages? How are these two answers different?
2. Why is Raba bar bar Hanan obligated to return the workers' clothes and give them their wages, in spite of the fact that they damaged his property? What does this teach us about how we should relate to poverty? Would Rav have provided the same answer if the workers had not been impoverished?
|One generation goes, another comes, but the earth remains the same forever. [JPS]||
דּוֹר הֹלֵךְ וְדוֹר בָּא וְהָאָרֶץ לְעוֹלָם עֹמָדֶת:
1. What is our responsibility to maintain the earth for future generations?
2. What does it mean that the earth remains the same forever? Is this true? Must we sustain it or can it sustain itself?