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A poor person in Israel walks past a field breathing a sigh of relief that grain still remains untouched in the corner. He enters the field and takes enough for his next meal.
It is clear from the Torah that helping the poor and needy should be integrated into our daily affairs. In this week's portion we learn about the different obligations that a farmer would have regarding leaving grain for the needy.
Rashi comments on the phrase "you shall leave" (Leviticus 23:22) and explains that the owner should not hand the produce to the recipient; rather he must allow him to take it himself. R’ Chaim Zaitchik explains that the needy individual will escape the humiliation of being handed charity, and instead just take what is due to him by Torah law.
He adds that when someone serves a guest, one should behave similarly. Don’t force food on him. Allow the guest to take as much or as little as he wishes.
We can learn from here a fascinating point when it comes to performing an act of kindness.
Are we truly thinking about the feelings of the recipient? Or are we just focussing on the fact that we want to give?
What if the guest isn’t hungry, and is just feeling pressure to eat? Or if the person praised in public, truly wanted anonymity? Is the person being visited tired and ready for time alone? As important as it is to give and to help, doing it sensitively and intuitively is key.
Gary Chapman in his book ‘The Five Love Languages’ explains that expressing love is like speaking a language. If the recipient doesn’t speak the same language as you then your love will not be received well.
When we give if we give just in our own ‘language’ doing what makes us personally feel good, our giving may be flawed. We need to make sure that we are giving in the ‘language’ of the recipient, in the way that he will appreciate, instead of what we personally would like to receive, or what makes us feel like the hero.
Leave the grain in the field for the poor, but don’t hand it to him.