Shavuot and Environmental Justice
Aside from receiving the Torah, Shavuot is also a grain harvest. In the age of booming urban sprawl, processed foods and industrial sized sodas, it is easy to forget that many of the important philosophies on tzedakah and sustainability are rooted (pun intended) in agricultural rituals. When harvesting a field, we are taught to leave whatever falls to the ground and the corners of our fields for the poor and the stranger (Leviticus 19:9-11). Even in our times of plenty, the fruits of our labor should be shared with those who are less fortunate. This tradition, while perhaps removed from the realities of 21st century life, should remind us that as we take in the rewards our hard work has produced we should also give to those who are less fortunate. Money may not grow on trees, rendering the “leave the corners” command a little murkier to follow, but we should still make the effort to live by the spirit of our teachings.
Generosity in our harvesting and planting should not end with the sharing of the corners of a field. Every seven years, during the shmita year, we must allow our fields to rest. They are given a year without being used to produce food. Just as we are commanded to take the seventh day to rest, we must also allow our fields to rest and recuperate as well. As we celebrate this Shavuot, let us reflect on what it means to harvest in this era and how we can give back to our communities and our world.
Image courtesy of David Angel.