Working for Success

If you want a business venture to be successful, you need to squeeze every ounce of potential profit out of your production. That's just good business sense, right? The Bible disagrees.

The "corners of the field" law have application outside of agriculture. We all have fields that we work in. The idea is to leave a generous margin for the needs of others. (Image © Bigstock)


Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Kedoshim (קדושים | Holy)
  • Torah: Leviticus 19:1-20:27
  • Haftarah: Amos 9:7-15
  • Gospel: Mark 12:28-34

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Leviticus 19:1 | Ritual and Moral Holiness
    • Leviticus 20:1 | Penalties for Violations of Holiness
  • Prophets
    • Amo 9:1 | The Destruction of Israel
    • Amo 9:11 | The Restoration of David's Kingdom

Portion Summary

The thirtieth reading from the Torah and seventh reading from Leviticus is named Kedoshim (קדושים), which mean "holy." The title comes from the words in Leviticus 19:2, which says, "You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy." Leviticus 19 describes the holy community through a series of specific commandments. Leviticus 20 warns against the snares of sexual immorality and idolatry, mandating a death penalty for certain sins. Except in biblical leap years, Kedoshim is read on the same Sabbath as the previous reading, Acharei Mot.

The Torah gives specific commandments for farmers practicing agriculture in the land of Israel. God tells the farmer not to harvest the grain from the corners of his field. He tells the harvesters not to go over the crop a second time to capture produce they might have missed on the first pass. He tells husbandmen not to gather the fruit that falls from their vineyards and orchards on its own accord. Instead, they are to leave all of the secondary produce for the poor, the needy and the stranger to collect.

The businessman who conducts his operation in keeping with these biblical principles is not concerned only about his own personal success; he is concerned about the success of others as well.

It's not easy to leave the corner of a field unharvested, especially when you might be having trouble making ends meet yourself. How did the farmer find the resolve to follow this instruction? He had only to remember that the land did not really belong to him. He was only a sharecropper, so to speak, working the soil on God's land.

These laws provide the background for the story of Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David. Ruth was a destitute widow, living alone with her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi. When the wheat was ready for harvest around Bethlehem, Ruth went out with other poor women of the community to glean in the fields. She followed after the harvesters, picking up dropped sheaves and gathering the remnants that had been left behind. Gleaning is still permitted by law in modern Israel. Poor people are helped by it because they are permitted to pick as much fruit off the trees or from the ground as is needed when they walk through a field or an orchard.

These laws have application outside of agriculture. We all have fields that we work in. The idea is to leave a generous margin for the needs of others.

The sages point out that the Torah does not mandate how large the corners of the field have to be. A generous man might leave large corners standing for the gleaners while a stingy man might decide that a single stalk or two at the corner of each field is sufficient. In both cases, the man's field made a statement about his heart.

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