Feeding the Poor Is Our Responsibility

Yael Eckstein  |  May 3, 2022

Elderly man in black jacket eating a bowl of soup.

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. — Leviticus 19:9

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Kedoshim, which means “holy,” from Leviticus 19:1—20:27.

I want to tell you about a wonderful project that The Fellowship helps support. Leket Israel is an organization that “rescues” surplus food, preventing food waste and benefiting the needy. They began many years ago by driving around to catering halls and restaurants and collecting all the unused food that was going to be thrown away.

Leket Israel also harvests surplus agricultural produce and collects cooked meals and then sorts and distributes them to the needy throughout the country. Today, Leket is Israel’s largest food distribution network, feeding 223,000 needy Israelis every week.

A few years ago, Leket turned to The Fellowship for help. They needed more refrigerated trucks to transport food. The Fellowship stepped up and provided the necessary funds for six trucks, bringing food to the poor all over Israel.

Feeding the Poor Is Our Responsibility

While this organization is doing amazing things to feed the needy today, the origin for the work it does can be found in the Bible. The word leket, means “gleaning” or “gathering,” referring to gifts of food to the poor, is first introduced in this week’s Torah portion, specifically in this verse: “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” (Leviticus 19:9).

In giving instructions to His children about how they are to conduct themselves, God instructed farmers that when they are harvesting their fields, they are neither to gather any produce that was dropped nor go back and harvest what was forgotten or missed. This, said God, belonged to the poor.

What’s interesting is that in the Hebrew, “When you reap” is written in the plural, speaking to the entire nation, but the words “do not reap” are in the singular, speaking to the individual farmer. There is a great explanation of that nuance from one of the Jewish commentaries.

According to Jewish teaching, the verse begins in the plural because taking care of the poor is the job of the entire community. But in switching to the singular, God is telling us that we all must view feeding the poor as our own personal responsibility, as well.

We should never tell ourselves that someone else in the community is taking care of the needy and we don’t need to help. We are all responsible, as individuals and as a community, to do what we can to feed the hungry.

Your Turn:

Thursday, May 5, is the National Day of Prayer, and The Fellowship is observing this day with our 3rd Annual Fellowship Fast, a time to unite in the power of prayer for our world, our nation, and ourselves. Won’t you join us?