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Rabbi’s Blog: Harvesting in the Fields

01/02/2024 05:01:02 PM


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Dear OZ family,

Greetings from Israel.

We just spent a grueling day volunteering in the fields of the South of Israel. Vast fields of produce are in danger of rotting for lack of harvesters. We first came upon a grapefruit grove that had at most a few days before the fruits would fall from the trees. In two hours we saved three bins, and of course we ran into people we knew. 

From there we went to an army base of special forces called Yahalom. Michael Cohen, who served with this unit 40 years ago, before I taught him Tanach at YU, took us, together with his wife Elana (Joffe) to the base. This is the unit that is dismantling the bombs and missiles they are capturing. They have also recreated the vast tunnels in Gaza to train soldiers in rescue operations. We have already equipped this unit with special devices, and they are in need now of updated helmets for combat in dark tunnels. I wore the old helmet for about an hour, and I was so light-headed, I could barely function. I tried on a sample of the new helmet, and it was half the weight and cover more of the head. These life-saving needs, I’m afraid, will continue for some time.

The work in the fields gave me an insight into the Ketonet Passim that Yaacov made for Yosef. Some meforshim explain that since a “pass” is a wrist, a Ketonet Passim is a long sleeved tunic that reaches the wrists. This was a special garment for Yosef, as the brothers wore short sleeves because they worked in the fields, while Yosef studied. After experiencing time in the fields, I came to realize that the one who needs the long sleeves is the one working in the fields. I had two covers on my arms, a long sleeved shirt and a sweater, and I still cut my arms in a few places. This gave me an increased appreciation for the workers who pick our produce.

The best of our people has emerged in a most difficult time for Israel. The need is great, and great people are stepping up in every way.

We’re leaving tonight and I look forward to sharing our experiences. By every measure, the needs of the last 3 months will continue for some time. I would like to consider a 5-7 day mission to help with Israel’s ongoing needs, sometime in the coming weeks. 

Stay well and healthy.

Rabbi Allen Schwartz 

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