“For there will never cease to be needy within the land. Therefore, I command you, saying, you shall surely open your hand to your brother, to your poor one, and to your needy one in your land” (Devarim 15:11).
“Mitzvot were given only to purify people” (Breisheet Rabba 44). By refraining from gossip, not bearing a grudge, not giving misleading advice, by showing sensitivity to the orphan, widow, stranger and poor, paying our debts on time, willingly accepting rebuke, and by acting in ways that demonstrate our love towards others, we are able to embody the traits that are meant to define a Jew: rachamanim, baishanim and gomlei chasadim, merciful, sensitive and performing acts of chesed.
“Rav Yehuda said in the name of Shmuel: Three thousand halachot were forgotten during the days of mourning for Moshe” (Temurah 16a). All too often, we take things for granted, only realizing what we were blessed with when we no longer have it.
One of the distinguishing marks of many successful companies is the encouragement they give to employees to experiment, encouraging innovation and new ideas. It is this ability to engage in fruitful experimentation, even mind-wandering, that can often lead to great insights and applications. In the best-selling book Start up Nation the authors describe the amazing economic success of Israel, a tiny country that has yet to know a day of peace.
That we are living in unprecedented times hardly needs to be stated. It is hard to believe that less than three months ago we in the west were living in blissful ignorance, oblivious to what lay just around the corner. We may have heard vague reports of something amiss in China, but we continued along our merry way. As the world came to a virtual standstill time slowed down, if not scientifically, then at least in our perception of it. (And with time being relative isn’t that what matters?)
One of the changes accompanying the creation of the State of Israel is the flourishing of the study of Tanach. Returning to our ancient homeland, and able to see with our own eyes where much of the Tanach actually happened, the Tanach comes alive in ways it just cannot outside of the Land of Israel. Furthermore, there has been a return to placing much greater emphasis on the pshat, the plain meaning of the text.
When our Sages entered the vineyard in Yavne, Rabbi Yehuda, and Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Yossi, and Rabbi Shimon were there, and a question was asked before them…Rabbi Yehuda, son of Rabbi Ila’i, rosh hamedabrim b'kol mamkom, the head of the speakers in every place, responded” (Shabbat 33b).
The Gemara’s simple question as to why Rabbi Ila’i is called rosh hamedabrim b'kol mamkom gives rise to one of the most well-known Talmudic stories, that of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai spending 13 years in a cave.
“Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel says: The laws of hekdesh, consecrated items; terumot; and ma’asarot, tithes, are the essence of Torah, and they were given over to the amei ha’aretz, the uneducated people of the land” (Shabbat 31a-b).
The Torah is full of mitzvot relating to farmers. Whether one is plowing, planting, or harvesting, the Torah has clear guidelines to direct us. One must separate wheat and the vine, avoid plowing with two different animals, leave the corner of the field for the poor, take our first fruits to Jerusalem, and give some of our produce to the kohen, levi and the poor. We must not pick up that which we might drop, nor go back to harvest a forgotten field. Wherever a farmer turns, there is a mitzvah opportunity waiting.
“And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your G-d demand of you but l’yirah, to revere the Lord your G-d, to walk only in His paths, to love Him, and to serve the Lord your G-d with all your heart and soul” (Devarim 10:12).