Among the commands presented in Parashat Kedoshim is the requirement to leave certain portions of one’s harvest for the poor. These include pei’a – a corner of the field; leket – the stalks that fall during harvesting; and certain clusters of grapes in a vineyard (19:9-10).
Several commentators observed that in issuing this command, the Torah shifts from the plural to singular form. It begins with the phrase, “U-be’kutzrekhem et ketzir artzekhem” (“And when you harvest your field’s yield”), formulated in the plural form, but then commands, “Lo tekhaleh…lo telaket…lo te’olel,” in the singular form.
The Keli Yakar explains that the Torah anticipated the claim that since all farmers generally harvested their fields during the same season, there was no need for each and every one to leave these gifts to the poor. The Torah speaks of the time of “be-kutzrekhem,” when the entire agrarian community harvests, and it turns to each individual farmer and commands him to leave these gifts to the poor. No farmer can excuse himself from these obligations by claiming that the poor have plenty of other fields from which to collect food. The obligation is directed to every individual, despite the fact that each could rightfully claim that the poor have enough available produce in other people’s fields.
This message, of course, applies to many other areas of religious life, as well. We cannot excuse ourselves from our responsibilities by relying on their being capably fulfilled by others. We must all see ourselves as personally responsible for upholding the Torah and fulfilling its commands, rather than assume that our work and efforts are not needed due to the work and efforts done by others.