I recently had the opportunity to go to Israel for a study abroad trip as part of a 65-person crew made up of mostly graduate students, a few undergraduate students, and four doctors/professors. We had two tour guides who were extremely knowledgeable and added incredible depth to our site visits. In total, we went to over 30 sites in 9 days, spending 4 days in Galilee and 5 days in Jerusalem–we were busy! It was an unforgettable trip and I highly recommend making the trip sometime if you are able! Over the next few posts I’ll share some highlights and spiritual reflections from my time there.

Service Project

After a 10 ½ hour flight (ugh) we arrived in Tel Aviv the afternoon of 1/6 and checked into our hotel around 5pm. Israel is 7 hours ahead of Eastern time so it felt like 10am to most of us, but after a long flight and not much sleep we were all pretty tired, so sleep came easily.

The next day, Sunday, we packed up and headed out to the Gan Haim Logistics Center, about 30 minutes NW of Tel Aviv, to help prepare rescued fruits and vegetables for distribution through the Leket National Food Bank. Israel has a booming agriculture industry and is actually now a world leader in both agriculture and water management. Successful and innovative farmers from all over Israel send thousands of crops to Leket to redistribute to those in need. We packed avocados, oranges, lemons, beets, eggplant, all sorts of produce and made several-hundred packages. There were about 20 volunteers to help guide us and we were able to get everything done in about 3 hours.

OT Ethics for Modern Times

Reflecting on this experience, I am struck by the way this organization is taking principles from the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy) and applying them to modern times. The name of the food bank is Leket, the Hebrew word for gather or glean. There are three passages in the Torah that establish the instruction of gleaning – or rather, of not gleaning. Let’s take a closer look at the introduction of this command.

Leviticus 19:9-10

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather (leket/laqat) the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.

Leviticus is right in the middle of the section of the Torah where the Israelites, recently and miraculously delivered out of Egypt by Yahweh, are receiving the terms of their covenant with Yahweh. They camped at Sinai for about a year and received an intense and concentrated education in how their God wanted them to worship him and to live in community with each other and the surrounding nations. In verses 9-10, the landowning Israelites are instructed to leave some of their harvest for the impoverished among them, regardless of ethnicity. They are commanded to counterintuitively quit before the job is done in order to let the poor and sojourner, who don’t own any land and can’t possibly grow their own produce, reap their harvest.

There Is Enough

Hold up – these wandering, nomadic Israelites aren’t growing any crops. They are camped out near Sinai having bread rained on them each morning. NONE of the Israelites have their own land! In fact, the people are incapable of providing for or protecting themselves in any sustainable way at this point, and they’ve done nothing to earn Yahweh’s protection or provision. 

Yahweh is already teaching his people that there is enough. In addition to the daily bread from heaven, he had made undrinkable water sweet and drinkable, started the first fly-by meal delivery service, and provided water for the entire nation out of a rock. He is teaching his people that he is able and willing to protect and provide in ways that don’t make sense apart from him. And when future landowning Israelites hear the instructions about not gathering every last bit for themselves and their own purposes, they can rely on a God who has proven himself morning after morning and evening after evening. There is enough because the earth is Yahweh’s (Psalm 24:1). 

So You Can Live Differently

Leviticus 19 is introduced with a call to holiness. The God of the Israelites is the God of gods, in a class by himself with no equal (Ex. 15:11). This God calls his people to be different, set apart, unique (aka holy) in how they worship him and care for each other. 

When compared with other ancient Mesopotamian law codes, there are many unique features of the Torah which demonstrate the revolutionary nature of the Mosaic Law. Gleaning is one of these principals. It is nowhere to be found in other law codes – no other cultures were even thinking about something so radical!4 Leave some of my own land unharvested after all the time and effort that went into planting it? Give away food when food is scarce?

That is a different way of living. And Yahweh gives this command twice more! Leviticus 23:22 is right after a section about offerings and feasts (which required food), reminding his people that offerings are not substitutes for providing for the poor in their midst. Deuteronomy 24:19-22 is given to a new generation of Israelites about to enter the Promised Land, calling this generation to remember their origins. Yahweh is unique, and he wants his people to live differently as they exercise faith in a steadfast loving God.

How About Now?

Israel is modernizing the not-gleaning principal through the Leket National Food Bank. Participating in this service for a morning has given me a lot to pray about and consider. How do I view “my own” resources? Am I stingy or am I generous? In what ways am I providing for those who don’t have the means to provide for themselves? If I am in a position where I am unable to provide, do I seek out God’s people for help? Do I practice recalling where I have come from, who God is, how he has been faithful?

I am grateful for this experience. I’m grateful for the Torah. And I’m grateful to know and love the same steadfast loving God who gave these instructions thousands of years ago.


  1. You may see Laqat in some interlinear versions.
  2.  Except for Sabbath days when there was no bread–instead, enough bread for two days was provided the day before (Exodus 16:27-30).
  3.  Read Exodus 12:33-19:1 to find out about the wild ride the Israelites went on from Egypt to Sinai.
  4.  Check out pg. 344 of Ancient Land Law: Mesopotamia, Egypt, Israel