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Sharing Is Commanded

Years ago when hiking through Israel’s Galil region, my guide would sometimes take a detour through a farmer’s field. There she would reach up and take an orange from a tree, immediately peel off its skin and then eat it. I protested. “This is not your field. These oranges are not yours to take.” She would then correct my understanding. “Our Bible permits it.”

The Torah proclaims: “When you enter your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat as many grapes as you want, until you are full, but you must not put any in your vessel.” (Deuteronomy 25)

Our Bible has a different understanding of ownership. We do not own the land. The earth belongs to God. We are but tenants. So when I look to my yard, the flowers, vines and trees (the Kousa Dogwood’s branches are now weighed down by fruit) I might think they are mine, but the food they produce is certainly not mine alone.

The Torah makes clear. If you are hungry, you can take the fruit from any tree, whether it be yours or your neighbor’s. Even though the farmer has expended all the effort, and expense, to grow and nurture the tree, its fruit must be shared. Still foragers can only take a little bit. They can only take enough to satiate their hunger. They may not take so much that they fill a basket and are then able to sell the fruit in the market. That would be stealing.

Sharing is demanded. Stealing is forbidden.

While very few of us have vineyards or even know how to grow grapes, or for that matter have an abundance of fruit trees, imagine how different the world might be if we shared some of nature’s bounty with our neighbors.

I continue to dream.

And then I recall the fruit that spoils in my refrigerator, and the bag of half-eaten grapes that make their way into our garbage can.

My dreams are within reach if I can let go and share. Perhaps all it takes for no one to know hunger is for each of us to offer some fruit here or there. Perhaps all it might take for us to alleviate hunger is for us to recover the notion that the land and its bounty are not mine but God’s. And God makes demands on us.

Sharing is commanded.