“Do not reap to the very edges of your field” Leviticus 23:22

By Rabbi Dr Deborah Kahn-Harris, May 10, 2012

When we first moved to our home, I decided to plant a kitchen garden. For better or worse, our house is situated such that it is our front garden which is south-facing and, hence, the better location to grow edible crops.

And so any visitor or passer-by will easily note that we are currently growing an array of edible crops in front of our suburban semi. Beans, carrots, blueberries, leeks, asparagus, figs, artichokes and more grow in our small plot and the ever-increasing number of raised beds and pot plants in the front driveway.

And from the moment we started this project, I worried about how to be a Jewish urban gardener. Ought we to observe the sabbatical year and if so, when? Should I be praying for rain according to the Israeli seasons (as is traditional in the liturgy) or the British ones? And how does one contain horseradish properly so that it can be harvested for use on a Seder plate?

But perhaps my most pressing ethical consideration can be found in this week's parashah, "Do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleaning of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner who reside among you."

Our kitchen garden abuts the pavement. Every day people walk past and see our abundance. Sometimes, many times in fact, they stop to talk to us about our garden and to show their children how various produce grows. But how to convey to these people that our garden is open, that if they are needy or hungry, we are happy to share? And yet we must. To share what we have truly toiled to produce - however greedy we are for that produce - is an essential act of compassion and, perhaps more importantly, community building

Last updated: 7:22pm, May 10 2012