Deuteronomy 24:19-22

 

דברים כד:יט-כב

Original Text:

כִּי תִקְצֹר קְצִירְךָ בְשָׂדֶךָ וְשָׁכַחְתָּ עֹמֶר בַּשָּׂדֶה לֹא תָשׁוּב לְקַחְתּוֹ לַגֵּר לַיָּתוֹם וְלָאַלְמָנָה יִהְיֶה לְמַעַן יְבָרֶכְךָ ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכֹל מַעֲשֵׂה יָדֶיךָ: כִּי תַחְבֹּט זֵיתְךָ לֹא תְפַאֵר אַחֲרֶיךָ לַגֵּר לַיָּתוֹם וְלָאַלְמָנָה יִהְיֶה: כִּי תִבְצֹר כַּרְמְךָ לֹא תְעוֹלֵל אַחֲרֶיךָ לַגֵּר לַיָּתוֹם וְלָאַלְמָנָה יִהְיֶה: וְזָכַרְתָּ כִּי עֶבֶד הָיִיתָ בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם עַל כֵּן אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה:

Translation:

When you reap the harvest in your field and overlook a sheaf in the field, do not turn back to get it; it shall go to the stranger, the orphan, and the widow -- in order that Adonai your God may bless you in all your undertakings. When you beat down the fruit of your olive trees, do not go over them again; that shall go to the stranger, the orphan, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not pick it over again; that shall go to the stranger, the orphan, and the widow. Always remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment.
[JPS translation edited for gender-neutrality]

Suggested Discussion Questions:

1. What does this text command us to do? Why does this commandment end with God's reminder to us that we were slaves in the land of Egypt?
2. Now that most of us do not live in agricultural settings, how can we apply these laws to our own gathering of resources?

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Related Texts:
Related Sourcesheets:Feeding the Hungry, Service and Volunteerism, Solar Sweets, Los Angeles Interfaith Hunger Summit -- October 6, 2009, Hunger Text Sheet, Purim: Trafficking, Sex Work and Power in Megillat Esther, Welcoming the Stranger, r-e-s-p-e-c-t, A Quick Study of Our Obligation to Feed the Poor, Food-Hunger-Environment-Poverty, Climate Change and Judaism, Feeding the Poor in a Dignifying Way, Edible Garden: Waste, Biblical references to tzedakah, the torah says: feed the poor, Food/Hunger, Caring for the Orphan, Universal tzedakah, Teen Leadership Program Foodbank Trip, Dorot Beit Midrash: Obligation to Feed the Poor , "What would you do with $100? Conversations about tzedakah decision making", Race and Diversity

Comments on this Text

What is the overall attitude of these texts toward how we are supposed to treat gerim? What are some of the underlying reasons for why we’re supposed to behave this way?

What protections, rights, and privileges did the Bible envision for gerim? What rights or protections might these translate into in contemporary American society? How might American (or Israeli) society look different if we made more policy decisions based on the Jewish values expressed in these texts?

Do you think that there is a difference between leaving the corners
of your field unharvested and not returning to pick up what was left
or forgotten? If so, what is the difference? 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?

Is leaving this portion of the harvest tzedek or tzedakah?

Maimonides teaches us that tzedakah is about assisting those in immediate
need. But tzedakah is not just about the transfer of money from donor
to beneficiary. It is also about the attitude of the donor and the dignity of
the recipient. Maimonides’ levels help us understand that the donor is not
superior, nor the recipient inferior, and that tzedakah should not contribute
to the aggrandizement of the former nor the denegration of the latter.
Judaism teaches that poverty is not a stigma and it should not define the
social status or worth of an individual. It is a condition, somewhat like hunger,
that with proper social structures and individual determination can be
overcome. It is also a condition that, but for the grace of God, might occur
to any one of us.

What is the value of having the needy come to harvest their own
portion?

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?