Paying the Rent
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch
Chapter 23 of Vayikra/Leviticus contains a review of all of the mo'adim, the
festivals of the year that offer us the opportunity to renew our
relationship with the Creator of the Universe, and the Divine Service that
was performed on each of these holy days. Shavuos, the Festival of Weeks
that follows the seven weeks of counting from the Omer Offering brought on
the second night of Pesach, is the day the Torah was given on Sinai and was
the day that the first fruits were brought to the Bais Hamikdash (Temple) in
Jerusalem. Following the service of this day, before the text continues with
Rosh Hashanah, the Torah injects, "When you reap the harvest of your land,
you shall not remove completely the corners of your field as you reap, and
you shall not gather the gleanings of your harvest; for the poor and the
convert shall you leave them, I am Hashem your G-d." (23:22). How is the
mitzvah (Divine command) to leave gifts for the poor germane to a discussion
of holidays and Divine service?
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (1895-1986; Rosh Yeshiva/Dean of Mesivtha Tifereth
Jerusalem in New York City; the leading Halachic/Jewish legal decisor and
foremost leader of Jewry of his time) elucidates that the chapter opens with
a discussion of Shabbos, the Jewish Sabbath, the observance of which is a
statement of faith that G-d is the Creator of the Universe. The
concentration of the chapter is observance of the festivals, which focus on
the tremendous compassion demonstrated by G-d through all phases of our
departure from Egypt and travels through the wilderness and, thereby, act as
an affirmation of our faith that G-d Himself guides the moment-by-moment
events of the universe. So, too, a tenet of our faith is the knowledge that
our sustenance and livelihood and all the benevolence bestowed upon us are
directly from Heaven. The tzedaka (charity) we are commanded to leave for
the destitute is a "payback" for the blessing we have received.
Furthermore, Rabbi Feinstein notes that there should be no personal
challenge in leaving this gift, for just as a shopkeeper willingly pays
rent, understanding that without his rent payment there is no shop to keep,
similarly the charity itself is a declaration of conviction that the
entirety of our sustenance, of which we are giving a small part to the poor,
is a gift from above. Charity is not simply a Divinely encouraged act of
humanistic kindness. It is truly a statement of devotion to G-d's mastery
and benevolence, the same as Sabbath and holiday celebration.
Have a good Shabbos!
Copyright © 2002 by Rabbi Pinchas Avruch and Project Genesis, Inc.
Kol HaKollel is a publication of the Milwaukee Kollel Center for Jewish
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