Field or Vineyard?

Friday, 16 September, 2016 - 11:35 am

Field or Vineyard?

Among the many laws in the Torah that command us to treat those less fortunate than us with dignity, in this week’s Parsha we read about the commandment to allow an employee, while on the job, to eat from the produce he is harvesting. As the Torah states: [1]

When you enter your neighbor's vineyard [2], you may eat as many grapes as you desire, until you are sated, but you shall not put [any] into your vessel.

When you enter your neighbor's standing grain, you may pick the ears with your hand, but you shall not lift a sickle upon your neighbor's standing grain.[3]

Why does the Torah repeat the same idea, one about an employee working in a vineyard and one about an employee working in a grain field? Why is it not enough to state the principle once?

The repetition of the law is an indication that the Torah seeks to tell us more than the straightforward meaning of the verse. The Torah repeats the law because, on a deeper level, the two employees, the one working in the vineyard and the one working in the field of grain, refer to two different types of employees, they refer to two very different attitudes toward man’s work and purpose on this earth.

G-d created a beautiful but imperfect world. At the conclusion of the six days of creation the Torah states [4]: “G-d rested on the seventh day from all his work which G-d created ‘Laasot’, which means to correct and to perfect. The world is an often chaotic field; we were placed on this earth to “work” it, to create order out of the chaos, to discover the fertility hidden within the earth, to plant and to harvest and ultimately to bring the world to perfection.

There are two ways of looking at our “work”. Some see the world as a field of grain, while others see it as a vineyard. Grain, in the Bible, is staple food; it is a necessity needed for survival, while the vine, and the wine it produces, represents pleasure and enjoyment.

A person can be G-d’s employee, he can understand that he has a purpose in life, a goal he must achieve in order to perfect the world and to fulfill his responsibility toward his maker. Yet, he is working with grain. He does what he needs to as a result of moral necessity, his work is void of any passion or pleasure. Then, there is another person striving to achieve the same goal as the first person. He too recognizes his responsibility, as an employee of G-d, toward the world around him, but he sees the world as vineyard. He sees the work, not as a burdensome task, but rather as a source of pleasure and satisfaction. Both of these people are employees, they are both in the same line of work, yet one is in a field and one is in a vineyard.  

Both are entitled to “eat on the job”, both are entitled to benefit from G-d’s blessing, both physically and spiritually. There is, however, a fundamental difference between them. The employee working in the field, the one who has no pleasure and just does his obligation, receives a limited flow from above. The employee working in the vine, the one who invests his pleasure and essence into the work, going above and beyond the call of duty, receives an infinite flow from above as he connects to the essence of G-d.

That is why, explain the Kabbalists, when talking about the employee in the vineyard, the Torah says “you shall not put [any] into your vessel”, in the literal sense this means that he may not put any grapes into his vessel to take home. The inner meaning of the verse is that the Divine blessing that the employee in the vineyard  will receive, the level of G-dliness he will reach, will be infinite. As such, it will not be able to be contained in the limited confines of a vessel. [5]  



[1] Deuteronomy 23:25-26.

[2] Rashi explains that this verse refers to an employee, who enters the vineyard to work.

[3] Meaning: the employee may not use a sickle to cut the grain for himself to eat.

[4] Genesis 2:3.

[5] Based on the teaching of the Rebbe, Likutey Sichos vol. 34 Sicha 2.   



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