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When you reap your harvest in your field, and you forget a single sheaf (of produce), you shall not return to collect it, but it shall be for the proselyte, the widow, and the orphan; so that the L-rd your G-d will bless you in whatever you do (24:19).
The "forgotten sheaf" is one of the gifts the Torah gives to the poor. The forgotten sheaf, the corners of the field and the gleanings of the harvest, all appear to be "the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table". With all these items, the Torah supports the needy without unduly taxing the rich - if he is wealthy enough to own his own field, he would be unlikely to reap it to the last grain.
Elsewhere (15:8-10 - see Rashi ad loc.) the Torah seems to demand far more from those that have towards to those who do not have. The Mitzva of Tzedaka - being required to give a substantial slice of one's legally acquired wealth, extends to having to restore a recently impoverished person to his former status. It also requires a person to grant loans even where there is a high probability that the debt will have to be written off because of the Shemitta.
In both cases however, G-d promises Divine reward. In the case of Tzedaka - often involving considerable sacrifice, the Torah assures blessings in all your deeds and in whatever you undertake. By contrast, going without the forgotten sheaf would not bite into the owner's finances. Yet the Torah assures him a similar Divine reward: so that the L-rd your G-d will bless you in whatever you do. What is so special about the forgotten sheaf that it merits the same blessing as Tzedaka?
The situation may be compared to a child who asks for a kilogram of chocolate nuts and raisins at the Shuk. The seller pours them out liberally on the scales - too liberally in fact. So he slowly puts the surplus back. The child sees his beloved pile of chocolates going down and down, before he can even get the bag between his hands. No child could get through a whole kilo! But nevertheless, he set his heart on all those chocolates, including the very ones that were taken away from him.
That is the case of the forgotten sheaf. In binding the corn to make the sheaf, the owner set his heart on it as being part of his property. A parting, as in the case of the chocolates, is painful…. The Torah therefore recognizes this by granting the same Divine reward as Tzedaka - which likewise involves parting with money on which he set his heart.
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: email@example.com for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
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