Within the Torah readings this Shabbat is ‘The Holiness Code’. As soon as we hear that it’s a ‘how to’ on holiness, we expect something spiritual, something esoteric with elevated philosophies. We don’t get that, instead we get details on relationships, and details on harvesting. It heads to the mundane, which begs the question: where’s the holiness in The Holiness Code?
Perhaps the holiness actually sits in all the details rather than in the grandeur. In teaching us how to harvest our fields, the Torah tells us to leave the corners alone, in other words, harvest in spirals. It’s important to remember that land isn’t measured in circles, it’s measured in squares or rectangles so it will always have corners. It makes the most sense to harvest in lines. By being told to harvest in spirals, it now becomes impossible to get into the corners, which will always remain outside of the harvester’s reach. We are also told that if a harvester drops anything they cut, it must remain on the ground and the harvester must proceed onward. At first glance these are strange laws that seem to represent losses to the land owner.
The holiness aspect enters when we understand that every field has more than harvesters in it. Among those who are paid to harvest are people who are unemployed, as well as people who are hungry. When the harvester drops something, it is not picked up because someone who needs it will now gather it and keep it. The harvesters are kept out of the corners of the field because the poor and the disadvantaged will harvest the corners and keep what they harvest.
But why not simply harvest everything and give a percentage as charity, which would result in the same thing? But it’s not the same thing, it’s merely the same outcome. Charity puts food on someone’s table, but it’s the result of my work, not theirs. Charity is transformed when we build shared experiences that produce shared outcomes. In the same field, some are harvesting, some are gathering, but all are productively working together. Everyone puts food on their own table that is the result of the work of their own hands.
Holiness is when someone who is disadvantaged has the same experience as someone who has privilege.
In today’s world, it would be similar to giving a homeless person a gift card to the same place you buy your coffee or food. With the gift card, that person now enters the same place, is treated equally, and sits together with everyone in a shared experience. Holiness is created when everyone is treated with honour and respect.
I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate.