And, in the middle of a description about the holiday of Shavuot, comes the following: “When you reap the harvest of your Land, you shall not completely remove the corner of your field during your harvesting, and you shall not gather up the gleanings of your harvest. [Rather,] you shall leave these for the poor person and for the stranger. I am the Lord, your God.” (23:22).
Both of the facial beard and field corners are called payot.
The following is written payot in one’s fields: “To teach you that whoever gives לֶקֶט, gleanings, שִׁכְחָה, forgotten sheaves, and פֵּאָה, the corners , to the poor in the appropriate manner, is deemed as if he had built the Holy Temple and offered up his sacrifices within it. — [Torath Kohanim 23:175].”
Rabbi Ismar Schorsch writes about the requirement to leave the corners of one’s fields, “No matter how hard we labored and worried to bring in this harvest, it does not belong wholly to us. Our personal blessing carries a measure of social responsibility.” Rabbi Schorsch also explains that Ruth (whose story is read on Shavuot) gleans from the fields of Boaz, whom she later marries. He remarks that, “the good that may result from a modest act of charity should never be undervalued.”
Indeed, we are all impacted and responsible when 1:6 Americans and 1:6 Israelis go hungry each year. At the same time, a shocking 133 billion pounds of food is thrown out annually in the US. We can to continue this holy tradition of leaving fields empty for the poor and do even more. We can stop throwing away food that isn’t sold by farms, restaurants and supermarkets.
It’s actually easy for people to share fresh produce. Ample Harvest’s online hub connects farmers, backyard gardeners and anyone else with extra produce to local food pantries. As a result, over 42 million Americans have connected with more than 7,000 food pantries in the US to donate fresh produce. Since its founding five years ago, Ample Harvest has facilitated the donation of tens of millions of pounds of produce to pantries.
Fallen Fruit, a Los Angeles-based art collective, first introduced me to the idea of gleaning nearly a decade ago. The artists collect fruit from public spaces throughout Los Angeles (and became the “go to” people who have helped thousands of others nationwide understand and clarify municipal codes so that they too, could pick public fruits). A neighborhood walk with them included picking carob pods from roadway medians, oranges from trees growing over public sidewalks, and lemons towering into public spaces. They’re now installing “urban fruit trails” with community members to have access to more fresh fruit in public spaces.
So, what are the parallels between not cutting the edges of one’s beard and one’s fields (both called payot)?
To me, this is about removing our sense of “me.” It’s about our responsibilities and embodying God’s holiness, personally and communally with all of our faculties. “A person should only use their face, hands and feet to honor the Creator, as it says ‘All of God’s works are for Him.’ (Proverbs 16:4)” (Tosefta Brachot, Chapter 4, Halakhah, translation by Rabbi Aviva Richman). Through our face, the corners are not cut and through our hands and feet, as we harvest the land, payot are left.
This week’s dish is inspired by not wasting food. I happened upon “kaleidescope scapes” at the farmers market this week. The farmer said that these were shoots that happened to grow unexpectedly off the kalette plants (kalettes are a popular new cross between brussel sprouts and kale). But, rather than throwing away the bizarre greens, the farmer decided to sell them at the market. I eagerly grabbed a bunch and they are the main ingredient in the dish this week. I also added carrots cut into roughly chopped, symbolic of corners.
1 large bunch of “kaleidoscope scapes” (you could also use kale, arugula or spinach)
1 yellow onion, chopped
5 carrots, roughly chopped into triangles or 1/2 moons
1 cup of garbanzo beans
1 tbsp tahini
1/2 tbsp olive oil
juice from 1/2 lemon or a few pinches of lemon salt
pinch of lemon pepper
tiny pinch of red pepper flakes or schug
1. Chop onions and carrots.
2. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute for 3 minutes. Add carrots and continue to cook until carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. If the mixture starts to stick to the pan, add some of the reserve water from garbanzo beans.
2. Add greens and fold into mixture. Cook for 2-4 minutes until wilted.
3. Add garbanzo beans and cook for 2 minutes.
4. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice or lemon salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Drizzle 1 tbsp tahini over the dish.