#41-50. Farmer's Obligations to Feed the Poor.
(Leviticus 19:9-10) (Leviticus 23:22) (Deuteronomy 24:19-21)
"When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God." (Lev. 23:22)
"When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow." (Deut. 24:19-21)
Law has limitation, of both duty and liability. If there is no limitation of duty and liability, law serves no purpose, and men are controlled under the whims and desires of other men. Definition of terms sets the standard for these necessary limitations.
Who are the "poor"? Is there a Torah standard economic measure? Is there an income point at which one is no longer "poor"? Is there an asset or wealth accumulation point at which one is no longer "poor"? Does one have to prove one is "poor" in order to receive handouts, charities, and leftovers, or is it on the honor system?
Who are the "strangers" and "foreigners"? Are these Jews only, or should pagan and atheist foreigners be considered recipients as well? Can well-to-do "strangers" and "foreigners" get in line with the poor? Will this cause any friction which must be policed or fenced-off?
[SEE commandment #40 for the definitions of "widow" and "fatherless"]
What is a "field"? Is it of a certain minimum square-footage? Is a small garden also a "field"? Is a "field" each crop on one's property? Must recipients have access to every field on the property? Must access be made to a field in the center of a property?
What is an "edge" of a field? Is an "edge" a certain width ribbon that runs along the border? How wide should it be? What is the minimum requirement? How far may recipients reach, to gather and pluck, beyond the width of the ribbon? Can they use any extension such as a net or hook, or only their arms and hands? Can they make a human chain to reach further?
Is an "edge" a certain length of the property's border or is it the entire length?
What is a "corner" of a field? Is it another word for "edge" or just part of an edge? If only part of an edge, what is the purpose of saying "corner" other than to confuse the issue? If a field is round rather than square, does this negate any "corner"?
For how long are recipients permitted to gather and pick? For how many days are they considered "recipients" and not trespassers? What is the start date and end date of "recipient season"? Does it vary from field to field? From location to location? Can a recipient get a rain-check if he must be absent during the entirety of "recipient season"?
What times of day are the recipients permitted to gather and pick? Daylight only, or anytime they like? What happens if a recipient finds himself in line after the "final bell"?
How much is each recipient permitted to haul away? A handful? A pocketful? A basketful? A truckload? How is this measured? Who will supervise? Who will enforce? What is the penalty for taking too much? What happens if a recipient in line finds nothing more to gather or pick?
How many fields can each recipient visit? Can a recipient visit the same field twice? If so, on the same day? What method will be used to prove whether or not a recipient visited a field?
What are the punishments for failing to provide access to recipients? Will the government or Temple send police to open up the field anyway? Is there a fine? Jail time? Public whipping? Is there no punishment at all, and therefore no recourse for the recipients should they be turned away? What if all or most of the farmers decided to tell recipients to stay off their properties?
When is a recipient trespassing? Over a certain line on the property? After a certain time or date? Can the farmer post a guard to keep out recipients who attempt to trespass on days and at times not designated for them?
When Jesus and his disciples were walking through a grain field, they plucked and ate (Matthew 12:1-2). Was this in "recipient season" or not? Were they within the "edge" when they plucked or not? The Pharisees who confronted Christ did not say they broke any limitation of today's commandments, but rather were breaking the Sabbath. However, no one was arrested or brought to trial for this incident, so we must assume Christ was innocent of everything here.
More on this fascinating subject in a THREE-PART recording!
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