OU Torah Insights Project
May 13, 2000
Rabbi Yosef Goldberg
Torah reviews the holidays of the year several times. Both Parshat Mishpatim and Parshat
Ki Tissa briefly mention the three pilgrimage holidays - Pesach,
Shavuot and Succot.
In Parshat Reeih there is a longer
exposition of those three holidays. Parshat
Pinchas contains an elaborate discussion of the additional sacrifices that
were offered on each of the holidays of the year, including Rosh
Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Emor also elaborates on all the holidays of the year, with references to
rituals such as blowing the shofar
on Rosh Hashanah, fasting on Yom Kippur, dwelling in booths and taking the four
species on Succot. The parshah also
mentions certain Temple sacrifices not enumerated in Parshat
Pinchas, such as the two breads that are brought on Shavuot with their
accompanying sacrificial lambs.
after the rather lengthy discussion of the holiday of Shavuot in Parshat Emor, the Torah suddenly interjects: And when you harvest
the crop of your land, you shall not completely harvest the corner of your
field; and the gleanings of your harvest you shall not glean. To the poor and
the stranger you shall leave them; I am the L-rd your G-d.
is this about? Why, in the middle of laws dealing with the holidays, does the
Torah mention the agricultural mitzvot of
caring for the poor and needy?
Eliezer Yitzchak, the grandson of Rabbi Chaim Volozhin, explains that Shavuot is
the holiday of the giving of the Torah. Although this fact is not openly stated
in any of the sections mentioned above, we know that fifty days after the Exodus
from Egypt, the Jewish people received the Torah.
Eliezer Yitzchak explains that the spiritual milieu necessary for Israel to
receive the Torah rested upon two foundation stones: one, the drive for mishpatcivil justice; and two, the drive for tzedakah and chessedcharity
and kindness. Without these two traits engraved in the hearts and souls of the
Jewish people, no meaningful observance of the Torah could take place.
in its discussion of Shavuot, the holiday of commemorating the giving of the
Torah, the Torah mentions the mitzvot concerning
the care of the poor and the stranger. These commandments are meant to enhance
social justice as well as to inculcate kindness and compassion in the Jewish
is the real reason why the Book
is read on Shavuot, Rabbi Eliezer Yitzchak explains. Why was this book [Ruth]
written? the Midrash asks. Only in order to teach us how great is the reward
granted those who do kind deeds for the sake of others.
The importance of charity to the Jewish soul is highlighted by Maimonides in the laws of gifts for the poor: We are obligated to be more careful with the commandment of tzedakah, more so than with any other positive commandment, for charity is the sign of the truly righteous man, the genuine descendant of our father Abraham, as Scripture states: For I have known him [Avraham] so that he shall command his descendants to do tzedakah. And the throne of Israel will be made firm and the true faith will stand only by dint of tzedakah, as Scripture states: Through tzedakah shall you be made firm. And Israel will ultimately only be redeemed through tzedakah as Scripture states : Zion in justice will be redeemed and its captives through tzedakah.
Rabbi Yosef Goldberg
Goldberg is a Rabbinic Coordinator of the Kashruth Division at the Orthodox
Union and rav of Young
Israel of Wavecrest and Bayswater in Far Rockaway, New York.