(Torah Portion Emor) No Shame!
The Torah requires an agricultural landowner in the Land of Israel to leave certain gifts to the poor in his field. One corner of the field is not harvested and is to be left for the poor to harvest and keep for themselves. While the farmer is cutting his grain, if one or two stalks fall from his grasp, he must leave it for the poor. When gathering his wheat after it was bundled, if the owner moved on and forgot bundles which are behind him, it must be left in the field for the poor.
The law is that the owner is not allowed to collect the forgotten pieces of grain or bundles and place them in one designated area. Rather, he is to leave it the way it was left in the field.
The question is why can’t the owner do the poor this favor?
An answer offered is that the Torah wanted the poor person to gather the gleanings himself so that he should have a feeling of self-worth. Using his own efforts and not being ‘handed out’ charity will lessen the feelings of humiliation of receiving a free gift.
In truth, this concept applies to each of our lives. The Chayai Adom explains with an example:
Suppose there is a wealthy person who provided the poor with anything they need. At some point in time, they certainly feel a sense of embarrassment for all that is provided for them.
Sensing their struggle and shame, the wealthy person distributed varied amounts of money to each of the poor, and told them to go and invest this capital so that they could provide for themselves on their own.
The best part of it is, the provider of the funds told them they owe him nothing in return.
In such a situation, if one makes it and thrives by accumulating additional wealth, can he take the credit for himself? Certainly not. After all, he was given the wherewithal as a gift with the intent that he succeeds.
However if one squanders away the funds that were given to him, the provider will certainly be let down.
The same idea can be applied to each of our lives.
Before coming into the world, we were souls in Heaven which received anything and everything without doing anything to receive all the goodness. We were just recipients of kindnesses which makes us feel shameful and embarrassed.
So what does G-d do? He sends souls down to earth clothed in human forms and gives each person custom made intelligence and wisdom, something of which he can never gloat about, since it was freely provided by G-d in order that one can be productive.
G-d did something else for our benefit. He placed us in this world where we have an opportunity to serve Him through observing His Torah and performing Mitzvos and deeds, something that was impossible to be performed as a soul in metaphysical Heaven.
In this world we are given the choice to utilize our time wisely by studying and observing the Torah and Mitzvos, thus transforming the physicality of the world into something spiritual . These opportunities are presented to us in a dignified way and we must express our appreciation to the Almighty for the great free gift of life that He endowed us with!
Within our weekly activity there also lays a structure and arrangement so that we don’t become shamed by getting everything as a free gift. G-d tells us to work, construct, create and earn an honest dignified living during the six weekdays.
After this exercise G-d gives us the seventh day – the holy day of Shabbos, where we are given a gift in this world allowing us to experience and appreciate a climate where there is no work, construction and creativity, a feeling which is akin to the World of the Souls – where everything is provided for us without the need to work.
Our appreciation of the blessed day of Shabbos is also the source of all the blessings we will receive through our efforts in the upcoming week!
Wishing you a most enjoyable and uplifting Shabbat!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family