Ki Tetzei: The Glory of Giving

Copyright 2015 Neal Joseph Loevinger

Torah Portion: Ki Tetzei

When you beat down the fruit of your olive trees, do not go over them again; that shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. (D’varim/ Deuteronomy 24:20)

Good afternoon!

You know why I love studying Torah? Well, among many other reasons, I always see something new in the weekly portion that I never noticed before. In this case, it’s one little word, which leads to a comment by Rashi and then a twist on that by yours truly.

The verse above refers to leaving some of the produce of the field, vine or orchard for the poor to glean; this is often referred to as peah, or “corners,” referring to the corners of the field left unharvested. Verses pertaining to this form of sharing occur both in Leviticus and in Deuteronomy; you can see here and here for details. What struck me this week was the particular wording related to the olive trees: when you beat your olive [trees], lo t’fa’er acharecha. . . .

You may have heard the word tiferet, or glory, which Rashi connects to t’fa’er, which is usually translated here “go over,” as in, don’t go back and get whatever you missed. Rashi instead says that this means, “don’t take the glory” of the tree, implying that the fruit is the glory of the tree, which is subject to the mitzvah of leaving gleanings for the poor.

We could also read Rashi as saying, “don’t take the glory of the tree” to mean, don’t take away the glory of the possibility of giving in this situation. If you take every last olive off the tree, there is no letting the poor come to share; tiferet,glory, in this context is not something visually splendid but spiritually excellent. This is one more reminder that Judaism finds beauty and honor in humble acts. In this case, the glory is in walking away while the harvest is slightly unfinished, so that others may sustain themselves. Humility, generosity, self-restraint; these are what the Torah considers the truest measure of a beautiful, even glorious, deed.

Shabbat shalom,
RNJL

The views expressed are my own and do not reflect those of Vassar Brothers Medical Center or Health-Quest.
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3 Comments »

  1. It’s a beautiful Dvar Torah as I have come to expect from you Rabbi Neal.

  2. Sylvia Gorin said

    Dear Rabbi, This is very beautiful.  Thank you.  Just beautifully written. Shabot Shalom! Sylvia

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