For the week of May 6, 2000 / 1 Iyyar 5760
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 19:1-20:27
and Bemidbar / Numbers 28:9-15
Haftarah / Prophets: Amos 9:7-15
Replaced by Isaiah 66:1-24

Help Yourself, Please

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God (Vayikra / Leviticus 19:9,10).

God’s desire for his people was to create a society where caring for the needy was part and parcel of normal living. One example of this is in how God told the people to leave a portion of their harvest for the poor.

It was very simple. When harvesting their fields the people were not to reap to its edges or go over them twice. In other words they were not to be very efficient. This system ensured that there would be a good supply of leftovers for those who didn’t have fields of their own.

This is so different from today’s business methods, which seek to derive the greatest possible return. Only after we have taken as much as we can, might we consider others, if at all. Get as much as you can as soon as you can is a highly esteemed way of life. The thought of leaving what is rightfully yours for others to help themselves is thought of as wasteful, not generous.

We have equated opportunity with God’s blessing. But God himself commanded that the people were not to fully exploit what was rightfully theirs. Leaving some for others is God’s way.

If we were content with deriving from our work what we need rather than getting as much as we can, then maybe there would be more for others.

As for the needy in society, note that God did not create a system which just gave things to the needy. They had to go get the leftovers themselves. While there were those around who, for one reason or another, could not go and help themselves, many could.

It is often said that God helps those who help themselves. I don’t know what the original intent of that saying is, and it is not a quote from the Bible, but this is what it may mean. While it is God who provides for us, we need to get up and do our part.

God does all sorts of things for us that are beyond our ability. He performs miracles for his people. Yet too many people waste their lives, wishing that God would help them. They fail to see that God’s answer is often in the opportunities he provides.

And when he provides for you through those opportunities, remember to leave over something for others.

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