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Rabbi Rosenblatt on Parashat Bechukotai

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Spring mix lettuce (Flickr photo - Marco Verch - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

A comedian once said that he plans to go to the store, buy some spring mix lettuce and throw it immediately into the garbage to avoid making his fridge a middleman. Perhaps this is the embodiment of the blessing in Parashat Bechukotai, “And you shall eat grain long stored, and you will clear out the old to make room for the new.”

Spring mix lettuce is not grain and “long stored” may be a term of relative duration, however, the reason it often goes bad is that we are blessed to have so much food in our storage and/or refrigerators that we simply don’t get around to eating the lettuce – our pangs of hunger do not force us to consume it immediately. Strangely, this seems not to be a blessing, but rather more a plague of guilt, in that we are blessed to have so much access to food that our households often throw out enough to support a family twice our size, and that could support a family suffering what today is called food insecurity, and our grandparents called dire poverty.

However, the verse is not referring to lettuce, it is referring to the dual usage of grain in the ancient world, when it could be ground into flour and kneaded into bread, or replanted to produce next year’s crop. Rashi teaches that such is the meaning of the verse. “You will clear out the old” is more accurately translated as “You will expend the old.” As this verse is mentioned in the context of walking in God’s precepts, it would seem to me that the blessing is in being able to produce more and share with those less fortunate.

Managing the food blessing of our era is yet more subtle. Many of us could stand to eat fewer calories and transfer them to those in need. It is an ancient reminder that even blessings come with the need for self-control and for sharing.

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