The question "Why mention the ger in Lev 19:10, 23:22?" references Vayikra 23:22 and quotes from it:

When you reap the harvest of your Land, you shall not completely remove the corner of your field during your harvesting, and you shall not gather up the gleanings of your harvest. [Rather,] you shall leave these for the poor person and for the stranger

The referenced question deals with the identity of the recipient of kindness. This question relates to how people followed this instruction if their work didn't produce something edible or harvestable.

As I understand the passage, the intent is to extend kindness to the poor and the stranger (which I take to be migrants/sojourners, in a position somewhat similar to that of the Israelites in Egypt prior to the Exodus). From a simple reading of the passage, I infer the following:

  1. the farmer (for want of a better term) deliberately avoids expending effort to achieve a 100% harvest;
  2. the farmer does not expend effort to identify or assist the gleaners (again, for want of a better term) with harvesting;
  3. the gleaners expend their own effort to gather what they need from the farmer's land after the farmer has completed the (primary) harvest.

The intention appeared to be that when one had 'increase' (profit, harvestable gain, etc), some of that increase should be shared with the poor and the stranger.

My question is this:

  • for someone whose 'increase' or 'profit' wasn't harvestable (say, a craftsman, doctor or an engineer), how should they follow this law?

For simplicity, let's assume the person's role in the company is 'business owner', in a similar position as the passage's owner of the land. I wouldn't expect a carpenter, for example, to make a chair and leave it for someone to take. Would he make cash donations to the temple instead?

On the matter of effort expended by whom, it isn't practical to talk about 'gleaning' cash. Did the temple authorities play a role in facilitating the helping of the poor and the stranger? If so, were the poor and the stranger expected to expend any effort in the process of acquiring aid (analogous to the effort required in gleaning in farms to acquire grain or fruit etc)? Perhaps taking the cash to the market to make their own purchases was the analogue. In any case, the focus of my question is the part highlighted in bold above.

My interest in this question is as someone "interested in knowing more [about Jewish law and tradition]" (cf the Mi Yodea tour and FAQ). Apologies in advance if the tags I chose for this question aren't the most suitable - please feel free to edit them. Thank you for reading my question.


This commandment is specifically for someone who has a field, and doesn't apply to other circumstances.

I will comment that it's more common than you might think - it's relevant to anyone who grows certain kinds of fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes and similar vegetables that aren't all harvested at the same time are excluded, but it applies to anyone who has a grape vine or several other kinds of fruit trees in their backyard (and I know people who had a grape vine for a while, in a not-so-warm climate, and they did get grapes from it. They eventually took it down). I'm pretty sure I've seen string bean plants sold at a nursery; it applies to them too.

Even in cases where the commandment applies, it's not terribly useful to poor people today. If I planted a string bean plant in my garden, I would have to leave over maybe 2-3 string beans for poor people. They probably wouldn't even bother coming to get them, at which point I would be allowed to take them because it's not required to let them go to waste.

On the other hand, you're correct that the commandment is not supposed to be ignored by people who aren't in a position to follow it. Even though someone who doesn't plant the right kinds of crops is exempt from this commandment, anyone can learn the laws and derive lessons in compassion from them. The Sefer Hachinuch writes:

‏ משרשי המצוה, כי השם ברוך הוא רצה להיות עמו אשר בחר מעוטרים בכל מדה טובה ויקרה, ושיהיה להם נפש ברכה ורוח נדיבה. וכבר כתבתי כי מתוך הפעולות תתפעל הנפש ותהיה טובה ותחול ברכת השם בה. ואין ספק כי בהותיר האדם חלק אחד מפירותיו בשדהו ויפקירם שיהנו בו הצריכים, תראה בנפשו שובע רצון ורוח נכון ומבורך, וכי השם יתברך השביעו בטובו, וגם נפשו בטוב תלין.

One of the roots of this commandment is that G-d wanted His nation to be crowned with every good character trait, and they should have a giving soul. I've already written that a person's soul is influenced by doing actions and through this commandment he will become a better person [he speaks more poetically, but that's the gist]. There's no doubt that when someone leaves part of his produce in the field and leaves them so that people who need them will benefit, he will see [their?] satisfaction, and be satisfied with the good that G-d gave him.

And there are many other, more general commandments that involve giving to poor people (example).

  • 3
    To be clear: giving money and services to the poor is a VERY GOOD THING to do. Even if we can't quantify under this particular command a particular amount to give, that doesn't detract from the clear expectation in Jewish sources that people should be giving from their income to the poor in some form. – Double AA Mar 15 '18 at 15:06
  • @DoubleAA Indeed. However, there seems to be more dignity in, say, Ruth repeatedly gleaning in Boaz's fields than if she had to beg for money. I'm wondering about someone in Boaz's position but without a field to allow gleaning - whether there was Rabbinical teaching or in-practice custom for their activity of giving to achieve something similar for the beneficiary. – Lawrence Mar 15 '18 at 23:13
  • @lawr you may be interested in reading about rambam's 8 levels of charity (google has some articles on it) – Double AA Mar 15 '18 at 23:15
  • @DoubleAA Thank you for the reference. I had a look and found this summary. Level 1 carries some of the sense of what I'm looking for (help them towards independence), helpfully expanded in this article. – Lawrence Mar 15 '18 at 23:40

A non-agarian is not bound by those particular rules. But the Torah is setting up a value system that should lead you down a path of doing the right thing. Judaism thus strongly recommends (and according to some, obligates) a tithing of funds ("ma'aser kesafim") for the poor. In fact it is inspired by the agarian system to the point that one rabbi wrote (Noda BiHuda) that because the agarian cycle's fiscal year started on Tu BeShvat (new year for the trees; typically mid-February), one should pay their tithes to charity every year by then.

  • Thank you for your answer. It's indeed the principle that I'm trying to work out how to apply in a non-agrarian context. – Lawrence Mar 15 '18 at 23:42

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