(Gleaning and modern agricultural technology; March 2007)
Before the nation of Israel entered their promised land, they were commanded about a number of agricultural practices. One of these is gleaning, or in Hebrew, “leket”. Leviticus 23:22 instructs the Jewish farmers to leave behind for the poor any grain that the harvesters’ sickles have missed. The plot of the book of Ruth hinges on this practice, which seems to have been quite common at that time, particularly during periods of scarcity due to drought or war.
Modern mechanized harvesting and higher standards of living have virtually eliminated gleaning. However, an article by Hillel Fendel in the January 16 issue of Arutz Sheva (israelnationalnews.com) reports a revival of gleaning in modern-day Israel.
A hunger-relief organization called Table to Table (www.tabletotable.org.il) has arranged for volunteers to collect food that is not harvested from farmers’ fields for distribution to the poor, an estimated 24% of Israel’s population, including 738,000 children. The food includes fruit that is missed by harvesting operations, or is considered edible but below market quality, or is simply unprofitable to collect.