It is since Passover that we are concerned about counting the days of the Omer. “You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath”. These are the words we read in this weeks Tora section of Emor. After fifty days we celebrate the Festival of Weeks. Towards the end of the instructions related to the festival we find, “On this same day you shall make a proclamation as well; you are to have a holy convocation. You shall do no laborious work. It is to be a perpetual statute in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.” But it does not end with that. There is one more instruction added, just to make sure we remember. “When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the Lord your God.”
Spring is a time of joy. We surely recall words of the book of Psalms chapter 126, “Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” Nevertheless, this does raise a concern, maybe even a significant concern, that at this time where those who rejoice also forget the difficult times, those times of concern and fear for the crops of the land, and with it also forget those who are needy in society. This but natural for human beings when we simply lose ourselves when relief is before our eyes, and not only don’t we remember the past but we do not pay much attention to the present let alone the future. That is why we get a call to remember even at such a joyous time.
Today most of us are not involved in agriculture and therefore cannot leave a corner of a field or leave behind the produce that we forgot. It makes us forget at times that we have a responsibility and that there is a bond of solidarity that we ought to be committed to. We must remember that there is something beyond the agricultural cycle that these passages come to teach us. It is more than a physical piece of land being cultivated. For instance, when we spend time in school, from kindergarten to university, in most cases, certainly in real-time, we do not pay our fair share of the cost of our education. It is the of the seeds. Surely, for at least some of us, the times we spent studying required toils and tears, many tears. Now that we reap the fruits of success of our studies, the ability to make a living, a decent living, it is also time not to forget that which enabled us to do so. If we only can we should remember to also leave something from it to others, maybe a small corner of a huge field. We can spend time educating a kid, donating time or money. Simply giving back to a world from which we have received much.
These days, thank God, it seems that Israel is counting down the days of the coronavirus and is slowly returning to a new kind of routine. There is no doubt that these were tough times to many bread earners, owners of businesses, and certainly a time of unusual stress. During this period many seeds were planted with hard labor, learning as we mover forward. Experimenting and failing. We do hope that the coming days and months shall hopefully result in a decent harvest. The product of hard labor, sweat and toil. However, all of this will not come to fruition if we lose sight of those weak or weaken people of our society. Those who do need our support and are not protected by unions or other parts of the public sector.
When there are those of the public sector who are suspicious of every independent business operator, independent contractors and others of the private sector, and doing that while enjoying the protections provided by being employed in the public sector, with all of its benefits and safeguards, a system that has the powers to extract with the private sector anything it wants, it is important for us to remind them that it is only for that private sector that the public sector has what it does. In yesteryears the priests did not have land, just as the prophet Ezekiel describes in the reading of the Haftarah, “I am their inheritance; and you shall give them no possession in Israel—I am their possession. They shall eat the grain offering, the sin offering and the guilt offering; and every devoted thing in Israel shall be theirs. The first of all the first fruits of every kind and every contribution of every kind, from all your contributions, shall be for the priests; you shall also give to the priest the first of your [dough to cause a blessing to rest on your house.” It is a reminder that despite the prominence of the position still the public sector is totally dependent on the private sector and it must be able to generate enough wealth to feed them all.
I do wish that the beginning words of that chapter of Psalms will become true for us, “A song of Ascents. When the Lord brought back [a]the captive ones of Zion, We were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter And our tongue with joyful shouting; Then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us; We are glad.” Maybe this is the return from the days of the coronavirus to more regular days. Hopeful what seemed to be a distant dream will become a new reality, fresh, plentiful and good. And while we reap the results, we must remember that as we collect our share, we also make sure that a corner is left for others, some of it is allowed purposefully or inadvertently to fall, as we think of others.
Shabbat Shalom and wishes for good health to all.
Reuven Marko, 8 May 2020, 15 Iyar, 5780