Good erev Shabbos everyone!
I dedicate this parsha-post as a zechus for yeshua, brachos, and Siyata di’Shmaya for all the Jewish communities of Houston.


A tremendous amount of mitzvos given over in the Torah, are solely for the sake of molding us into more sensitive people, showing us how to increase our sensitivity of G-d, everyone we interact with… and our true selves.  We must be in tune to what our Neshama requests of us, because, in a most profound truth…  it is Hashem speaking, through us.

Some customs and stringencies we may at first find unusual, and Chas v’Shalom, even scorn.  But with a little clarification…  the pieces come together.  Kaitzad, for example:  We are instructed in Mishna Berachos (Perek 6, Mishna 6):  “Ba lahem yayin b’toch hamazon kol echad v’echad m’vareich l’atzmo – If wine was brought to them (a group of diners) during the meal, each and every one recites the blessing (over the beverage) for himself.”  However:  “L’achar hamazon echad m’vareich l’chulam – (if the wine was brought) after the meal, one recites the blessing for all of them.”  What is the reasoning behind this law?  The Gemara declares that ‘the mouth is not clear of food during the meal.’  One explanation that our Sages elaborated with, is that if in the middle of the meal, while everyone is having a good time and noshing, one man recites a blessing aloud, for all to respond to with a mandatory Amein…  we face a very serious choking hazard!  That is why this law was created– to ensure safety, and preservation of health and human life.  We all know the dangers of talking with food or beverage in our mouths…  Only after the meal, when all present most assuredly have clear throats, can they chorus in this praise of Hashem.  Is this not astounding?  These age-old Rabbis and teachers were thinking to the most minute details, and with this careful consideration, established timeless guidance and protection.

One of these beautiful mitzvos, based on such sensitivity, will be the focus of our discussion this week.  Let’s flip to the 5th Aliyah of our sidra, Ki Teitzei:

“Ki tavo b’kerem rai’echa v’achalta anavim k’nafsh’cha savecha v’el-kely’cha lo sitayn – When you enter your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat as many grapes as you desire, until you are sated, but you shall not put [any] into your vessel.” {Devarim 23:25}

The Torah regulates all aspects of commerce and business, and of course, employer-employee interactions.  In the above verse, Rashi clarifies, “rai’echa” doesn’t simply mean your neighbor.  You would never crash your neighbor’s garden and “pick-your-own” (unless, of course, you were invited to by the owner).  Rather, he says, drawing from Gemara in Bava Metzia, this alludes to a worker entering the field of the one who hired him, to harvest and gather.

The Torah’s concern here, lay in the possibility that a unique psychological torment may be posed to a hired hand, who is working around the fresh, appealing fruit all day, when he is unpermitted by the one who hired him to eat any.  So the employer is commanded here to be sensitive to his worker’s needs.  The hired-hand is working hard, and this above teaching is part of the responsibility entailed on the employer’s part to his hire.  If the employee becomes hungry, the employer will deny him nourishment, and starve him on the job?  Of course not.  All the more so, he shall  be ungrudging and let the worker eat as much as he desires, until he is satisfied.

However…  There is accountability on the employee’s part too.  Even though his boss is charged with beneficence towards him, the hire must accept the privileges with fairness.  The Torah goes slack on no one, and respect here is demanded from both sides.

What are the rules for the worker in this case?  The Torah warns him “savecha – until you are sated.”  Rashi again brings down from Bava Metzia, that the hire shall still his hunger, but he is forbidden to consume the grapes gluttonously.  What does it mean, when the verse reads “v’el-kely-cha lo sitayn – but you shall not put (any) into your vessel”?  With this, the worker is admonished that he is by no means permitted to stash his employer’s harvest away for himself.  Whatever he is allowed to eat– it is strictly an on-site lunch.  He may not freely gather and pack up what isn’t due to him, to take home.  What else does this clause teach us?  There is only potential for this situation to arise, when the hire is harvesting, and picking the grapes himself!  Only then must extra caution and integrity be taken, to prevent taking advantage (or shall I say ad-vintage?), so that he doesn’t slip a few extra juicy gems into his own personal container, for private use, when it truly belongs to his employer.  As was said, the only time this could occur, is when grapes were being picked.  Drawing from Bava Metzia, if hired-help was working on something else in the vineyard or orchard, for example, tilling soil or trimming the hedges, the produce of his boss’s field was off-limits to him to begin with!

Similar laws apply to the next verse, which makes reference to a worker in a wheat field, and what is and isn’t permitted to him.


When we are working in a team, or others are doing a favor for us, be cognizant of their requirements.  Could the landscaper use a refreshing glass of ice-water on this 90-degree August day?  Could the cleaning help for Pesach use some lunch?  This idea needn’t apply exclusively to victuals, nor just someone who is doing something for you.  Be sensitive to everyone.  Does the girl sitting next to you on the bus look a bit down?  You could give her a warm smile.  Does the older man who lives alone down the street need a little chizuk?  Pop over to say hello, and share with him an insight that might cheer him up.  Could your frazzled mother use some quiet?  It’s always fun to play games outside with younger siblings!  These are but a few of an infinite array of other mitzvos, with which you can nourish and uplift everyone you meet.

And what if you are on the receiving end, like the hired-hand or employee?  Well, we know what we personally need, so we can shun greed.  We are all responsible for our moral choice (this is in fact what makes us like Hashem– free choice to do right or wrong!), and it’s all in our hands to ensure that we don’t overstep the limits and boundaries set for us by Torah, that we don’t take advantage of others, and adhere to the highest levels of human holiness.

The Messenger Bird