If you enter your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat all the grapes you want, but do not put any in your basket. — Deuteronomy 23:24
The Torah portion for this week is Ki Teitzei, which means “when you go out,” from Deuteronomy 21:10–25:19, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 54:1–10.
There is a story told about Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, the great rabbinic leader of Germany in the 19th century, that toward the end of his life, he decided to go on vacation in the Swiss Alps. This seemed like a somewhat strange and impulsive thing for such an eminent rabbi to do. His students asked him, “Why are you making this trip?” His response, “I have this feeling that after I die, and I am called in before God, one of the questions that God will ask me is: ‘So, Shimshon — you lived so close to my Alps — did you ever go to see them?’”
One of the many laws that we learn from this week’s Torah portion is that when a worker is picking produce in a field, like raspberries, for example, the worker is allowed to eat as many berries as they would like. Yet, They are not allowed to stick any in a basket of their own – that would be considered stealing. However, while they are working out in the field, they are permitted to taste and enjoy the fruits before them. The law recognizes that it would be cruel to put food in front of a person, but deny him or her the opportunity to eat it.
The Jewish sages learn from this rule that God wants us to enjoy the world that He so lovingly created for us. In fact, according to Jewish tradition, one of the questions a person will be asked after they pass on to the next world is, “Did you taste all the different fruits?” God gave us the gift of fruit and countless other things to enjoy. To never open the gift and enjoy it would be wrong.
There are, however, a few conditions for enjoying all of the God-given pleasures of this world. We must be grateful and mindful of where our gifts have come from. Along those lines, we must be willing to share our many blessings with others in need, since all we have is really God’s anyway. Additionally, we must be careful to treat our gifts appropriately, never abusing them or taking them for granted.
Look around you. How many gifts do you see? Most people tend to focus on what they are lacking and miss out on the enjoyment of what they have. Do you have good food to eat? A scenic road to walk on? Is the sun shining? Or is warm rain falling? Make time to enjoy all of God’s gifts. When we enjoy what we have been given in a meaningful and appropriate way, we will bring much pleasure both to ourselves and to our Father above.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President