Shavuot Dvar Torah
The Relationship between Poverty & Redemption
After teaching about the Omer and the holiday of Shavuot, the Torah teaches us that we are to leave our “leket” from our field harvest for the poor (Vayikra 23:22). I’ve often wondered if or how this was practiced in Biblical times. In fact, the one book of Tanakh where this is indeed practiced is in our Shavuot reading of Sefer Ruth. Boaz was a wealthy landowner who opened his heart and his harvest to Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi who were in a time of great need. Boaz said to Ruth:
“Hear me well, my daughter. Do not go to glean in another field and don’t leave here, but stay close to my maidens. Keep your eyes on the field which they are harvesting and follow after them. I have ordered the servants not to molest you. Should you become thirsty, go to the jugs and drink from that which the servants have drawn, (Ruth 2:8-9).”
Boaz later married Ruth and from this union and lineage came King David and the sprouting of Jewish messianism and the hope for the possibility of an ideal time when the poor would no longer be hungry. It was through Boaz’s commitment to act for the poor that enabled the possibility of redemption. Helping the poor stranger remains the central Jewish priority for working for salvation.
Sefer Ruth serves as a reminder for us that the religious personality must remain focused upon the other. Rebbe Zeira says: "The Scroll of Ruth tells us nothing of the laws of cleanness or uncleanness, of what is prohibited or what is permitted. Why then was it written? To teach you how great is the reward of those who do deeds of kindness” (Ruth Rabbah 2:14).
Shavuot is a time for reaffirmation as we reaffirm our commitment to Torah, chesed, and strengthening our midot (character traits).
Reb Noam Elimelekh teaches that as we think about our bringing of our first fruits on Shavuot we should read Bikkurim not with a chaf but with a kuf and that we should be levakair (search our internal ways) to improve ourselves.
A significant part of this self development is about our midot and character development. However even more central is our commitment to working each day for a redeemed world through poverty alleviation.