This Shabbos we read Parshas Emor. In Parshas Emor the Torah discusses the all the various holidays that we have in the Jewish calender. The Torah discusses Passover, Shavuos, and then goes on to Rosh Hashana. At the end of discussing the holiday of Shavuos, (which isupcoming in a little more than two weeks), the Torah tells us of the mitzvah to leave Peah, the corner of our field, for the poor person. (Leviticus 23:22). Why, asks the famed Maishech Chochmah, is this mitzvah spelled out over here as we discuss the details of the holiday?
In a most beautiful explanation, he observes that many people misunderstand the need for the Torah. They think that the Torah is only required for mitzvohs which we would not think of on our own. They understand that we need a Torah to tell us to eat only kosher, to blow a Shofar on Rosh Hashana, or to celebrate the Shabbos. However, they think that when it comes the mitzvah of charity, or of loving our fellow Jew, the Torah is not needed. We would do these mitzvohs on our own. This thought, explains the Maishech Chochmah, is what the Torah comes to refute. Even for mitzvohs that are self understood, we must have the guidance of the Torah. Who can avoid learning the lesson of the most cultured country of its time - Germany, which with all the magnificent manners of music and art became one of the most barbaric and beastly civilizations man has ever seen? The Torah insists on putting the commandment of helping the poor person here, as we discuss the holiday of Shavuos which marks the giving of the Torah, to underscore this point – all mitzvohs, both those understood by us and those not understood by us, must come from the Torah.
A similar idea is expressed in the beginning of the Tractate ‘Ethics of the Fathers”. The first Mishna begins, “Moses recieved the Torah from Sinai, gave it to Joshua,”... Why is this brief historical note of the transmission process of the Torah recorded here in Ethics of the Fathers? The commentaries explain that this is also for a similar idea. Let us not think that the ethical ideas expressed by our Sages are simply ideas that they thought of on their own as to how a person shoulod act. Rather, just as all the other laws of the Torah, these are also ideas that come from the Almighty with the giving of the Torah.
There are so many situations when the questions of ethics come to play. If a person has to give charity, how much should he or she give? Is this simply a question of how they feel, or does the Torah give us guideline? If a person wants to give charity, where should they give it to? Should it be directed to help poor people or to support Torah study? As we face ethical dilemmas and questions every day we must remember to look in the Torah to find the answers to our questions.