Today, 11 of Iyar, is my dad’s third Yortzait.
Because in my shul, there is no way a woman can speak in front of the congregation, I asked a male friend of mine to say this on my behalf during our Seudah Shlishit:
In Memory of Shimon ben Nachum
This Parshat has a few lines that reflect very closely on my father’s character. I am sure he did not know this law, but he lived according to it all his life.
וּֽבְקֻצְרְכֶ֞ם אֶת־קְצִ֣יר אַרְצְכֶ֗ם לֹֽא־תְכַלֶּ֞ה פְּאַ֤ת שָֽׂדְךָ֙ בְּקֻצְרֶ֔ךָ וְלֶ֥קֶט קְצִירְךָ֖ לֹ֣א תְלַקֵּ֑ט לֶֽעָנִ֤י וְלַגֵּר֙ תַּעֲזֹ֣ב אֹתָ֔ם אֲנִ֖י יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃ (ס)
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.
Sifra, Emor, Chapter 13 11
11) (Vayikra 23:21-22) “And you shall call out on this self-same day a holy calling … And when you harvest the harvest of your land, do not end off the corner of your field in your reaping and the gleaning of your harvest you shall not gather.” R. Avardimos b. R. Yossi said: Why did Scripture see fit to insert this (peah and leket) in the midst of the festivals — Pesach and Shavuoth on one side, and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur on the other? To teach that one who gives leket, shikchah, peah, and the poor tithe — it is accounted to him as if the Temple existed and he offered up his sacrifices therein. And one who does not give it — it is accounted to him as if the Temple existed and he did not offer up his sacrifices therein.
I like to think that for a man who did not know what Temple sacrifices were – his conduct in the matters of generosity and helping the poor “is accounted to him as if the Temple existed and he offered up his sacrifices therein”.
During most of my life, my father held high positions that allowed him to travel to Moscow and other places often and open doors that were closed to most. Every time he would be back, he would bring presents not only for us – his family, but for friends, friends of friends, and anyone who could use things not readily available to the “general public”. As we all know – they were many at the time.
Our house was always open. His childhood friends, most of whom were struggling, sometimes stayed with us for months on end. His favorite phrase at the table was “Что ты спрашиваешь? Ты клади!” (Don’t ask! Give!) if one of us asked the guest if they wanted something to be put on their plate. Having experienced hunger in his childhood during the War, he was adamant that no one goes even close to hungry in his house.
אר”ש מפני ארבעה דברים אמרה תורה לא יתן אדם פאה אלא בסוף [שדהו] מפני גזל עניים ומפני ביטול עניים ומפני מראית העין מפני הרמאים מפני גזל עניים כיצד שלא יראה שעה שאין [שם] אדם ויאמר [לעני בא וקח] לך פאה מפני ביטול עניים כיצד שלא יהו עניים יושבין ומשמרין כל היום [ואומרים] [עכשיו נותן פאה] אלא מתוך [שנתנה] בסוף הולך ועושה מלאכתו בא ונוטלה באחרונה מפני מראית העין שלא יהו עוברין ושבין אומרין ראו [פלוני שקצר שדה] ולא נתן [ממנה] פאה [שהרי אמרה] תורה (ויקרא יט) לא תכלה פאת שדך מפני הרמאין כיצד שלא [יהו אומרין] כבר נתננו ד”א שלא יניח [מן] היפה ויתן הרע.
Rebbi Shimon said, “Because of four things the Torah said [that] a person should only give Peah (corners of the field) in the end of his field [and not in the middle or in the beginning relative to where he began to harvest from]. Because of theft from the poor, and because of wasting time of the poor, and because of suspicion, and because of cheaters. How so because of theft from the poor? That [the owner] should not see a time when there are no people there and he will say to a poor person who is his relative, ‘Come and take this Peah for yourself.’ And how so because of wasting time of the poor? That the poor will not sit and watch [the field] the whole day and say, ‘Now he is giving Peah, now he is giving Peah’, but rather since [the owner] gives it in the end [of his harvest of the field, the poor person will] go and do his work, and [then] come and take [Peah] in the end [of his work day]. And how so because of suspicion? That passersby should not say, ‘Look at so and so that he harvested his field and did not leave from it Peah, because so it says in the Torah, ‘You should not harvest the corners of your field …’ (Leviticus 19:9, Leviticus 23:22)’ And how so because of cheaters? That people should not say, ‘We already gave [Peah].’ Another explanation. That he should not leave the good [portion of the crops for himself] and give [Peah] from the bad [portion of the crops].” (Tosefta Peah 1)
He did not give because he didn’t need it himself. He gave from his generous heart.
“Judaism teaches us not how to die but how to live so that, even in life, we may overcome death, lack of freedom, the enslavement to physical things and moral weakness. Judaism teaches us how to spend every moment of a life marked by moral freedom, thought, aspirations, creativity and achievement, along with the enjoyment of physical pleasures, as one more moment in life’s constant service to the everlasting God.”
(Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch)
My father may have not been formally associated with what we call “Judaism”, but he lived its values. And today, three years after his passing, his legacy lives, BH, within 3 generations of his girls.