When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not pick your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger; I the Lord am your God. – Leviticus 19:9-10

Among the ancient rabbis, some were very wealthy and others lived in poverty. Once a man of great learning owned a large food warehouse. When food became scarce, he decided to share the stockpile he had accumulated. The man publicly announced that those who studied Torah or the Oral Law would be welcome, but others would not be admitted. One young man dressed in rags pushed to the front of the crowd. When the warehouse owner asked why he should feed him, the man answered, “Feed me as the dog or raven would be fed. For as God provides food for these creatures, so should you!” The warehouse owner gave him some food and then sent him away.

The young man was really the warehouse owner’s student. Our sages relate that Jonathan Ben Amram had disguised himself rather than accept food as payment for his learning. When his teacher learned his identity and why Jonathan appeared as he did, he vowed to help anyone in need and thereafter provided food to anyone who was hungry (BT Bava Batra 8a).

Another explanation is that Jonathan’s teacher, despite his great learning, needed to be reminded of these words of Torah which were extended by the sages beyond the fields into the cities and towns. The warehouse owner had learned from his teachers: If a person lives in a place for 30 days, he is responsible for contributing to the soup kitchen; for three months, the communal fund for the poor….(op. cit.)

We emulate the Creator, igniting the Divine spark within us, when we are generous with our possessions, whether tree-ripened fruits in the field, stores of grain in a warehouse, or the homemade baked goods brought forth from our own ovens.

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