The Wonderful Mitzvah of Forgetting

The WORD – 8/30/12.  In preparing to go on vacation for the last two weeks of the summer, I tried my best to tie up all the loose ends in my office (including preparing my weekly D’var Torah for distribution via email!).  I’m sure, however, that I forgot some things.  The fact that I am distributing this today (9/4/12) confirms my prior assumption.

In this week’s (read: “last week’s”) Torah portion, we are introduced to a wonderful mitzvah that is called “Shich’chah” by the rabbis.  Shich’chah literally means ‘forgetting.’  The basic mitzvah (as described in Deut. 24) is that when you are harvesting grain in your field, and you forget or overlook some sheaves, you cannot go back and get them.  You must leave them so that the needy can come and harvest them.

As the commentary in our Etz Hayim Humash points out, this is a mitzvah that cannot be performed on purpose.  It both assumes and depends upon our imperfection.  Thus, there were sages who celebrated when they realized that they had forgotten some grain because they could finally fulfill this mitzvah.

But, the real kernel of truth in this mitzvah is that God knows that we are not perfect.  After all, if we were perfect, there could be no “Shich’chah”.  And, to take it a step further, God even gives us the means to respond perfectly to our imperfections – to make lemonade out of lemons, as the old saying goes.

If, when we forget some sheaves in our field, we then go back to get them, we are doubling down on our imperfection.  If, however, we allow others to gather that grain, then we are turning our imperfection into a blessing.

It seems to me that that is what God is looking for and that is what God expects.

So, as we approach the High Holiday season, we should all be asking ourselves: how do we deal with our imperfections?  Do we quickly try to cover them up so that no one else will know?  Or, do we find a way to celebrate our imperfections and, perhaps, make life a little better for others through that celebration?





About Rabbi Avi Friedman

I am the rabbi of Congregation Ohr Shalom - SJCC, a progressive Conservative and traditional congregation. I am also husband to Jodi as well as father to Gabi, Jonah, Jessica and Ilana. I have been a part of the Summit community since 2005.
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