Parking Meter Mistake

In the midst of describing the holidays and their practices, the Parsha takes a detour to tell us a different kind of law: “And when you reap the harvest… the edges of your field… the gleanings of your harvest- you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger…” (23:22). Many commentaries try to explain: Why did the Torah feel it necessary to inject this law into the laws of the holidays? We just learned about them in detail in last week’s Parsha!

 

The Kli Yakar provides an insight which goes much deeper than simply answering the question. He explains that while we perform the service for the holidays, we are instructed to harvest our fields for the sake of the bread offering, the Shtei Halechem, given on Shavuot (two weeks away!). The Torah warns us not to think that because we already used our field to produce a gift for Hashem, that we should therefore be ‘off-the-hook’ to produce gifts for the poor. It is therefore important for the Torah to interrupt the laws of the holidays, to make sure we don’t neglect the needs of others, by thinking we already took care of the needs of G-d.

 

While this concept teaches a very valuable lesson for harvesting season during Temple times, it rings true even today. Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking our service of G-d is like a parking meter: ‘I prayed today, I don’t also have to study’; ‘I gave charity last week, I don’t have to give again for at least another month’; ‘I called my sick friend, now I don’t have to visit him in person’. The misunderstanding of parking-meter-service is that it implicitly assumes the purpose of mitzvot is to placate- our friends, our institutions, and even Hashem. In truth, the Torah promotes a lifetsyle, not just a set of tasks that carry us from day to day. When it comes to living a Torah-infused life, the mitzvot don’t take vacations. They are instead a constant inspiration to help us grow and form a relationship with our Creator.