Rabbi Milevsky's Thought of the Week: Emor - 5780
RATIONALISM AND REVELATION
In Pareshat Emor, where the Torah lists the annual holidays following the mention of Shavuot, the text adds that: “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am Hashem."
Several commentators wonder why the laws of Tzedakah are mentioned in a section that discusses the holidays.
Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk explains that one might have thought that the Revelation at Sinai was only needed for the sake of Mitzvot that are “Commanded without Rationality.” On the other hand, Mitzvot that are comprehensible to the human mind, like acts of kindness and Tzedakah, have no need for the events at Sinai, since humans can accept them by means of logic and reason.
When the Torah mentions Tzedakah after addressing Shavuot, it is to teach us that ethics without a belief in a Higher Power will not be long-lasting. An age of reason and rationalism is no guarantee of ethics if the world takes no notice of the Aseret Hadibrot. Thus, the Torah is teaching us that true and long-lasting Tzedakah needs the revelation of Shavuot, just as much as any other Mitzvah.