October 29, 2013
It is most definitely fall. The leaves have turned spectacular shades of yellow, orange and red. The days are shortening. The fields are yielding apples, cranberries, pumpkin and winter squash. The chill in the air means it is time for the soup pot to come out of summer storage. Thanksgiving—Hanukkah!—and the “holiday season” are right around the corner.
Cornucopias loaded with delicious looking fruits and vegetables abound making me think about “The Harvest.” And though I have never done anything more than backyard gardening, my mind turns to gleaning, as in:
"'When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the stranger residing among you.’”
|“The Gleaners” Jean-François Millet. 1857 Musée d’Orsay, Paris
How are we 21st century city dwellers, backyard gardeners or not, supposed to interpret this very agriculturally related commandment which carries with it some specific instructions about leket (“gleanings,” if it drops on the ground leave it), shikhehah (“forgotten,” if you forget something in the field don’t go back and get it) and pe’ah (“corners,” leave the corners of your field unharvested).
For those of us not in the agricultural trades, it is actually pretty simple. This directive reminds us that whatever we have in life, a part of it belongs to someone else. It is not a suggestion that we be generous to those who have less. Rather, this is our notice that we have a moral and legal (halachic) obligation to give part of what we have to those who have less.
How do we find opportunities to give what we must to those who need it? I have discovered that opportunities are everywhere, if we open our eyes. When approached for money by individuals on the street, and uncomfortable searching through my purse for cash, I give protein bars. I have volunteered as a tutor for children at 826DC, something I got as much out of as the children did. I plan to engage my now adult children in a conversation about how we might meet our “gleaning” obligations during the Thanksgiving/Hanukkah weekend. I look forward to their creative ideas and would love to hear yours as well.
Wishing you many blessings for Thanksgiving and Hanukkah!
Here are a few books to inspire your family “gleaning” experience:
Bone Button Borscht by Aubrey Davis. Illustrated by Dusan Petricic.
Kids Can Press, Ltd. © 1995. Ages 5-9.
A beggar arrives in a small town on a cold winter's night hoping for a hot meal. Instead he finds empty houses and no one to share any food with him. When he begins cooking up a pot of Bone Button Borscht, the neighbors start contributing what they have and the town has a feast!
A Kids' Guide to Hunger and Homelessness: How to Take Action! by Cathryn Berger Kaye.
©2007. Free Spirit Press. Ages 9-14.
An excellent book packed with great ideas for social action projects and ways to get involved in this serious issue.
The Quiltmaker’s Gift By Jeff Brumbeau. Illustrated by Gail de Marcken.
©2000. Scholastic Press.
The greedy king owns everything, except one of the quiltmaker's quilts. He demands she make a quilt for him and she finally agrees, on one condition. He must give away everything he owns. The results are astounding!
Reach Out and Give by Cheri J. Meiners, M.Ed. Illustrated by Meredith Johnson.
©2006. Free Spirit Publishing. Ages 3-8.
Even very young children can contribute to helping others. This charming book will inspire families with young children to discover skills, talents and ideas to involve everyone in the art of giving.
Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn. Illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright & Ying-Hwa Hu.
©1995. Lee & Low Books, Inc. Ages 5-9.
Sam is excited to be going shopping with his mom on Chinese New Year, especially since he has his own money to spend. When he discovers that he does not have enough money to purchase any of the items he wants, he gets angry. Then he remembers a shoeless man sitting in the street.
Books used in this review were provided by the publisher or are from my personal library or my local public library. I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to in this blog and purchase it from Amazon, I may receive a very small commission on your purchase. You will incur no additional cost, however. I appreciate your support.