This weekend is the BSA National Camp-in. If you want to participate in real-time on Saturday you can join via this link, but pre-registration is suggested: https://www.scouting.org/campin/ If you do not use electronics on Shabbat, BSA advises your local council website should have a link to see the event on Sunday (or perhaps Saturday night). Either way, start your camp-in Friday night with Derech Tsofeh.
Did you ever grow a plant at home, or maybe in school? It’s a lot of work. You have to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, water, weed, and hope that the neighborhood varmints do not eat the tender plant. If you’re a farmer, all the work and worry can really multiply. You can’t just fill up a watering can and water acres of a crop. You have to hope there’s enough rain, or dig irrigation ditches to carry the water from a stream to the crops. And if there is too much rain, that can rot the crop.
So, imagine that after months of all that effort and concern, it is finally time to harvest the beautiful crops you’ve grown and as part of your big day – you have to leave some of it lying on the ground. But that is just what God commands in the second parasha of this week’s double reading, Acharei Motand Kedoshim. God tells us:
“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not completely reap the corner of your field, and you shall not gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not pick the undeveloped twigs of your vineyard; and you shall not gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the proselyte – I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:9-10)
The two parashot we read this week continue the description of things God commands us to do – and not to do – in order to be holy as God is holy. These portions tell us how the kohanim (priests) are to make certain offerings, whom we cannot marry, how to treat our parents, how to deal honestly with people in business, to avoid idol worship and many other things. And as part of this list of holy things, one is to help the poor by leaving them the crops that fall to the ground as we glean, and leaving unharvested one corner of the field so that those in need can harvest from it.
This commandment is also a reminder that God has provided for all of our needs and, in our efforts to be holy, we pass along God’s gift of a good harvest to those who do not own their own fields. What a great chance to do a Good Turn.
A famous example of such a Good Turn is found in the Book of Ruth, where penniless Ruth followed the men harvesting the fields of a distant relative, Boaz. That story ended well. Boaz married Ruth, and they became the ancestors of King David.
During the present Covid-19 emergency, we have the opportunity perform mitzvot relating to helping those in need. If we have food in cans or boxes, we can donate them to a food pantry, or even conduct a food drive through our Scout unit – just be sure to observe social distancing guidelines. We can make monetary donations to groups that serve those in need.
We can also feed the spiritual needs of those who are alone by calling people, or having a web-chat with them, sending them a video, or making an in person visit by standing on their front lawn or sidewalk while they are at their front door (again, observing local social distancing guidelines).
Shabbat shalom and have a great camp-in!