Does it matter exactly how you give food to the poor?
מעשה שזרע ר’ שמעון איש המצפה לפני רבן גמליאל ועלו ללשכת הגזית ושאלו אמר נחום הלבלר מקובל אני מרבי מיאשא שקבל מאבא שקבל מן הזוגות שקבלו מן הנביאים הלכה למשה מסיני בזורע את שדהו שני מיני חטין אם עשאן גורן אחת נותן פאה אחת שתי גרנות נותן שתי פאות:
Rabbi Shimon of Mizpah once sowed his field in the presence of Rabban Gamliel. They then went up to the chamber of hewn stones [in the
Temple, where the Sanhedrin met] and asked [whether a field sown with two types of wheat requires that two corners of the field be left for the poor, or only one]. Nachum the scribe said, “I have [the answer] from Rabbi Miasha, who heard from his father, who heard from the pairs [of early rabbis], who heard from the prophets that it is the law going back to Moses at Sinai regarding one who sows his field with two types of wheat: if he reaps the entire field at one time, then he leaves one corner; if he reaps at two times, then he must leave two corners.”
The Torah requires of the Israelite farmer when harvesting his crops to leave the “corner” of his field for the poor (Leviticus 19:9-10; ). Our Mishnah shows that even in
Questions for discussion:
- Why is so much effort put into transmitting and clarifying this seemingly minor detail of the law? Couldn’t the rabbis have simply erred on the side of caution by leaving two corners unharvested?
- In our day, is there an economic equivalent to leaving the corner of the “field” for the poor? Is there a benefit to donating the actual fruit of one’s labor rather than a cash equivalent?