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When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. (Deuteronomy 24:19-20)

Scripture is continually reminding us of how important it is to consider others, even before ourselves in certain situations. In that line of thought, this and subsequent verses instructs those blessed with land and crops to acknowledge that the “gifts of the earth” they enjoy come from God. Consequently, He wants those who are blessed to share those gifts with the less fortunate, particularly the stranger, the widow and the orphan. For instance, the sheaf that is forgotten in the field is to be left for the poor. Once the olive tree is beaten, no one is to “go over the boughs” again – the remnant is left for the less fortunate.

Jewish sources teach that, after the olive tree’s branches have been beaten, this fact is announced by a crier who alerts those in need that help is available. One might imagine that the poor in that time would be anticipating this and be prepared to go into the olive yard or fields to glean from what has been left. So if everyone in Israel was doing as they should, i.e. obeying the commands of God, all would benefit including the poorest of the land — the strangers, the orphans and the widows. Furthermore, in following God’s command and considering the welfare of others, the one who leaves a remnant for the poor has caused God to be glorified.

Interestingly, the Hebrew word translated as “go over the boughs” comes from a root word (pa’ar) that actually means “to glorify, to beautify” as in “to adorn.” This strongly suggests that the remnant which is left for the poor serves as an “adornment” for the one who left it for them, and by that I mean, they are identified as someone who acted righteously. As a matter of fact, the root פאר pa’ar also indicates “something that is distinguished” — i.e. the obedient one is distinguished because he obeyed God and considered his fellow man.

I also find it interesting that the Hebrew word pa’ar sounds similar to our word, “poor.” Not only that, but it also sounds very similar to our word, “pure.” Is there a connection? I think there is; when we consider the poor, it is an indication that we are striving to be pure in heart and, thus, striving to glorify God in the sight of others. May it be that we continually place our fellow man before our own interests because this is pleasing to the LORD and, as it is written, our obedience provokes God to bless us “in all the work of your hands.”

Blessings and Shalom,  




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