field-workers vs vineyard workers

Thursday, 8 September, 2022 - 10:08 am

R. Yeshaya Zusha Shubau z”l, my grandmother’s father, also known as the “Boyder Rav”, was the rabbi of the Marina Rosha synagogue in Moscow. On the first day of Succot he would get up early, immerse in a Mikvah, study Chassidut and prepare to perform the mitzvah of taking the Four Species. When the time came, he would hold the Lulav and Etrog in his hand, and would leap and dance as he made the blessing “Asher Kidshanu Bemitzvotav Vetzivanu Al Netilat Lulav. (Who sanctified us with his Mitzvot and commanded us to take the Lulav.)” 

Once, his friend, who was standing next to him, also a rabbi, turned to him and asked him somewhat cynically: “The Boyder Rav, why are you dancing?” “What do you mean?” responded the Rav. “I just made a Bracha (blessing), and I was so excited that I danced.” 

The friend wanted to tease him and said, “I just made the Bracha of Asher Yatzar (the blessing made after using the bathroom), and I didn’t dance…”

“Nu,” said the Boyder Rav, “If you were to make the Asher Yatzar blessing once a year, boy, would you dance…”

In Parashat Ki Tetzte it says, “When you come into your fellow’s vineyard, you may eat grapes as is your desire, to your fill,… When you come into your fellow’s standing grain, you may pluck ears with your hand…”

The Torah tells us to allow a worker who is working in a field or vineyard to eat of the produce while he is working. 

Interesting: while regarding the vineyard it says “as is your desire, to your fill” – as much as you want, when talking of the field the language is more limiting: “you may pluck ears”. Not an expression of abundance, but rather of a measured amount, as much as you can hold in your hand. 

The Rebbe explains that these verses hint to two types of service of the Creator. 

Field-work, in which one labors over the basic and vital needs such as wheat, symbolizes the person who does whatever is necessary and vital in his service of Hashem, but not beyond that. 

Tending a vineyard, in which one is working with pleasure-causing things such as grapes, symbolizes the person who serves Hashem joyfully and enjoyably, perfecting his acts and making improvements (within the permitted boundaries); going beyond the basic law. 

We all know “field-workers”, people who observe the laws of the Torah properly, but somewhat dryly, without happiness and enthusiasm, without getting excited or going beyond the minimal requirements. The result is like bread that comes from a field: it feeds a person but does not provide the pleasure and the juice that a fruit has. And then there are the “vineyard workers” who bring happiness and enthusiasm to their observance of Torah and Mitzvot. They search for ways to improve the act, and get excited about performing it. The results are like grapes that have grown in a vineyard: juicy, and full of sweetness and pleasure.

Like the employer of the worker, so too the Creator allows his workers to take and eat as they labor; in other words, He supplies us with our needs and opportunities so that we will be able to serve Him, keep His Torah and observe His Mitzvahs. 

And just as it says in the Parasha: A field-worker who serves Hashem dryly, only because that’s what he’s supposed to do, receives from Hashem only a measured amount of wheat – enough, but not more than that. 

Unlike him, he who serves Hashem with happiness and pleasure, as if he were picking grapes in a vineyard, merits to eat “as his desire.” Hashem grants him an abundance of good, to his fill. 

Shabbat Shalom, 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

Comments on: field-workers vs vineyard workers
There are no comments.