One of the striking features of Parashat Ki Tetze is its concern for ethics within every sphere of social interaction. I would like to focus on one fascinating and lesser known Halakha:
When you enter another man’s vineyard, you may eat as many grapes as you want, until you are full, but you must not put any in your vessel. (23:25)
At first glance, I am being given carte-blanche to eat agricultural produce that isn’t mine. However, the Talmud applied this to a worker during the harvest season. Here is Rashi in a concise summary of the law:
When you enter your neighbor’s vineyard: Scripture is speaking of a worker.
as you desire: As many as you wish.
until you are sated: But not excessive eating
you shall not place [any] into your vessel: referring only to the period of the harvest, when you place [grapes] into the owner’s basket/vessel, however, if the worker is entering the vineyard to hoe or or cover the exposed roots, he may not eat.
In short, if a worker is picking fruit, he may help him or herself to the fruit during his work time. But may not take the produce home. If I recall correctly, my attraction to this particular law stretches back to a 5th Grade Humash class when our teacher told us that she worked in a bakery and was allowed to help herself to any of the baked goods on the basis of this law!(*)
Click here to read more from Rabbi Alex Israel in this week’s Parsha Discussion on Ki Tetze: Eating on the Job!
Please note that if you are printing The Parsha Discussion on US paper, please select the option “fit to print”.
Alex teaches Bible at Pardes and is the Director of the Community Education Program and the Summer Program. Alex was born and raised in London. He holds degrees from London School of Economics, the Institute of Education London and Bar-Ilan University. Alex studied at Yeshivat Har Etzion under Rav Aharon Lichtenstein and Rav Yehudah Amital, and gained Rabbinic ordination from the Israeli Rabbinate. Click here to read more.