The Season of Gleanings
Given By: "Glenn D. Blank" On Saturday, May 7, 2011

Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:22, "And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I the LORD am your God."

There's something profoundly spiritual and practical about this verse about the season of gleanings-for it is both about providing for poor and the stranger and it's about the harvest of souls; it's about how to harvest the land of Israel and it's also about bringing in the harvest for the kingdom of God.

Before we spiritualize this verse, let's understand the p'shat or literal meaning of the gleanings.

In ancient Israel reapers would cut stalks of grain with one hand while catching what was reaped with the other. Whatever the reaper failed to catch in his other hand fell to the ground, ungathered. In what other book do we find a description of gleaning by the poor in ancient Israel?

Ruth 2:2, "Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, "Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor."  Indeed, Ruth was both poor and a stranger. That itself is a spiritual meaning, teaching us to do justice for the poor and the stranger. 

V'eemru (and let us say)?

Yet in what chapter do find this verse?  Leviticus 23--which gives the calendar of the biblical festivals, from Pesach or Passover to Sukkot or the Feast of Booths.

Immediately preceding verse 22 is the description of the Feast of Shavuot (Weeks or Pentecost). That's the next festival in our calendar-we are counting the 50 now in anticipation of the day when we will celebrate both the giving of the Torah at Sinai and the outpouring of the Ruach HaKodesh in Jerusalem.  I am seeking the Lord for a fresh filling of the Spirit when we gather on that day. V'eemru?

The verses that follow 22 describe Yom Teruah, the Day of Blowing Shofars: what an exciting day! The first half of Leviticus 23 describes the cycle of spring festivals-which Messiah Yeshua fulfilled in his first coming, by becoming our Passover Lamb, rising from the dead as the firstfruits of the resurrection, then instructing his disciples to wait for the outpouring of the Spirit on Shavuot.

The second half of Leviticus 23 describes the cycle of fall festivals-which Messiah Yeshua will fulfill when he return, with the blast of shofars from heaven and the mourning of Israel as they recognize Him coming on the clouds, and the restoration of all things in the Kingdom of God to which we look forward as we celebrate in the booths of Sukkot. But why has Hashem inserted this verse about leaving gleanings for the poor here?

It recapitulates Lev 19:9-10, "When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God." 

Leviticus 19 is a list of commandments promoting holiness and justice.

Why repeat this commandment in a section about the festivals?

Well, what were the people doing between Shavuot and Yom Teruah in the ancient land of Israel? In our post-industrial age of information and Internet, we devote ourselves to consuming and browsing.

But the ancient Israelites spent much of their time in the fields.

Hashem was teaching them to lift up their eyes from the ground to consider how they may do justice. Is Hashem teaching us to lift up our eyes from the computer screens to consider what we may do?

A little over ten years ago, the Lord led me and Pamela to move from Bethlehem to Allentown. We had a nice house in Bethlehem-I had helped design it myself-and there Beit Simcha was born, and shortly after the Shulmans moved onto the same street, Falcon Drive. When we found the house on Chew Street, I knew as soon as we had walked through all its large  rooms upstairs and efficiency apartments downstairs, that this house was the one, because this house would foster community.

But I also saw the beautiful gardens laid out around the house, and I asked the Lord, how am I going to maintain them?  And I remember what He said to me: "You like to garden." Now that was a pretty surprising things to say to a professor of computer science who was learning how to serve as a Messianic Rabbi!  My response was, "Really?" Well, those gardens are hard to maintain, but I must admit I get some joy out of fighting the good fight against the weeds, maintaining order on my corner. The ongoing battle against weeds has something in common with maintaining order in a congregation!

In John 4:35-36, Yeshua said, "open your eyes and look at the fields! They're already ripe for harvest! The one who reaps receives his wages and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that the reaper and the sower may be glad together." We are in the season of Leviticus 23:22, betwixt when Messiah came and when Messiah will return. We are in the season of gleanings.  What gleanings should we be leaving?

If your field is not a farm but the Internet, is there something you could leave there, for those who hunger and for those who still strangers to the Kingdom of God? Or perhaps you could pray about going out into a neighborhood to pray for the poor and stranger?

I'm thinking of the Power and Love Ministry, which seeks to touch people around us with prayer. Is there anyone here who needs to receive the healing love of Messiah?  Would you like prayer today?

I'm also thinking of Nancy Hahn's vision of prayer stations, places where a couple of us can set up a table and a chair and announce we are hear to pray for the people on this block, or this neighborhood?  How can I pray for you?  If some of you go to pray on the Gangewere property, which we are considering for a possible building, you might also want to take note of the trailer home community next door-where many low income folks-including Alan Kaufman a Jewish man who once was a member of Beit Simcha. Perhaps some of us can begin to pray for that neighborhood?

If we were called to that neighborhood, wouldn't we want our neighbors to welcome us? Wouldn't we want to invite them to rejoice with us, in our corner of the kingdom of God? Nancy also envisions a prayer station near Muhlenberg College, whose student body is well over 30% Jewish and is the home of the Institute of Jewish-Christian Understanding-I sent an announcement about one of their events yesterday. I expect you'll be hearing more about Nancy's vision in our havurah groups in coming weeks.

We are the season of gleanings.  The Lord of the Harvest has given us His Torah and His Ruach.  Soon He will return with the blast of shofars and gather the harvest into His barns. Meanwhile, what gleanings can we leave for others, so that they too may be part of the Lord's harvest? Let's pray about how God is calling us, as a community, to fulfill this mitzvah of gleanings, here in the Lehigh Valley.

Ivy knows how apropos that I should be teaching about this verse about the season of gleanings in the land of Israel.  Come on up, Ivy!  Ivy is going to share a testimony about her experiences in the land, and how the Lord is leading her along with her community to leave gleanings of the Good News there.