And when you gather the cuttings of your land, don’t cut the corner of your field when you harvest, and the fallings of your harvesting don’t gather, for the poor man and the convert you should leave them. – Vayikra 23:22
The Torah reading on the first days of Sukkos outlines the yomim tovim of year and their sacrifices. In the middle of the detailing of all the holidays, the Torah repeats the mitzvah of Leket and Peah—leaving a portion of your harvest for the poor. Rashi is troubled by the placement of this repetition in the middle of the descriptions of the holidays. Rashi explains that the Torah is teaching us “Whoever gives leket, shichicha and peah to a poor person properly, the Torah considers it as if he built the holy temple and brought all of his sacrifices in it.”
This Rashi is very difficult to understand. What possible comparison is there between this simple mitzvah of leaving a portion to the poor man, and the colossal mitzvah of bringing all of the sacrifices on each holiday? And even more, how can giving charity be equal to the building of the Bais Hamikdash?
The Heart of our Nation
The center point of each moed is the Avodah done in the Bais Hamikdash. It is difficult for us to imagine the holiness invested, and the spiritual accomplishments that are attained via the korbanos being brought.
A kohen is a holy Jew who spends his life dedicated towards the spirituality. From his earliest youth he is trained in learning, eventually to join the ranks of the Torah teachers in Israel. Only when he is twenty-five is he ready to begin his apprenticeship as a kohain. He will spend five years learning, preparing, practicing and then for only the next twenty years may he serve. As there were thousands of kohanim, each Kohain would only get to do limited parts of the actual service and even that for only two weeks out a year.
For each Yom Tov, a team of hundreds of the holiest people of the generation were involved in the preparations and the actual service. With the leviim singing, and the rest of the Jewish nation waiting, the assigned kohain goes through the actual process. Scripted from beginning till end, he must have the exact intentions throughout and must follow the procedure to the letter.
These korbanos affect the upper worlds as well as the physical world in a profound manner. The Gemmarah tells us that if the gentiles knew the impact of the sacrifices they would surround the Bais Hamikdash with armies, and not allow anything to interfere.
How can Rashi say that when a man leaves part of his produce for the poor man, it is equivalent to all of this? All he did was not pick up the droppings from his harvest, and leave a corner of his field to the poor. In what way can this be compared to the spiritual impact of having built the holy temple and having had brought all of the sacrifices?
The answer to this can best be understand by focusing on a concept that Chazal share with us:
The Great Opportunity to Help Another
“More than what the rich man does for the poor man, is what the poor man does for the rich man”. (Medrash Rabba: Rus: 5:9).
The reason for this is based on very purpose of Creation. HASHEM created man to give to him. By placing man in this world and giving him free will, HASHEM allowed man the opportunity of perfecting himself, and enjoying the greatest pleasure, basking in HASHEM’s presence forever. In accordance to the level of perfection that man reaches here, he will be able to enjoy closeness to HASHEM.
The measure of all perfection is HASHEM. The more like HASHEM man is, the more perfect he is, and the closer to HASHEM he is. The Torah is the system of spiritual perfection. Its mitzvahs bring a person nearer to HASHEM, by making him more like HASHEM.
HASHEM needs nothing and does nothing for Himself. This entire Creation and everything in it was fashioned to benefit others. HASHEM is the Benefactor. And so, the more of a giver a person is, the more like HASHEM he is, and thereby the more perfect.
HASHEM is Perfect
There is, however, one critical observation. HASHEM is very good at doing that which HASHEM does. HASHEM doesn’t need help in running the world. And, HASHEM has lots and lots of money. If HASHEM so wished it to be, there wouldn’t be poor people, and even more the entire concept of poverty and wealth wouldn’t exist. HASHEM created a world with different sorts of people. Some strong and some weak. Some brilliant and some not. Some wealthy and some poor. But it wasn’t by accident, and it wasn’t because HASHEM ran out of money. HASHEM created the world this way to allow people the opportunity to use their strengths and talents, their resources and situations. If man does that not only does he grow, but he is credited with the accomplishment.
If a wealthy person sustains a poor man it is considered as if he gave life to the person. Even though its HASHEM’s world, and even though HASHEM gave the wealth to the rich man, if the wealthy man gives to the poor man he is credited with saving him.
This seems to be the answer to the Rashi.
Granted the kohanim bringing the Avodah is a spiritual act of extraordinary impact. But source and the measure of all holiness is HASHEM. The way that HASHEM shows Himself in this world is through Giving. When man gives to others he is acting as HASHEM, and so there can be nothing holier.
The Torah is teaching us that when you leave over your leket and shickhah you are acting like HASHEM as much as you can. When I take care of another’s needs that is spirituality—not second rate, not some add on—this is the highest level of spirituality.
This concept has particular relevance, as we find much of the spiritual aspirations today are focused on certain mitzvahs. While all mitzvahs holy, we need to remain cognizant that the aim of all of the mitzvos is to bring us closer to HASHEM. The way we do that is to be like HASHEM as much as we are able. The more that we are focused on the needs of others, the more like HASHEM we become.
Courtesy of TheShmuz.com