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Post #30 (Emor): "Leave your gleanings for the poor": Purposeful work and volunteering

"He who serves the most reaps the most." -- Jim Rohn

"And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the edge of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; leave them for the poor and the migrant: I am the Lord your God.| Leviticus 23:22.

Consistent with the Torah's sensitivity to society's weaker members, an emphasis was placed on food security. Several mechanisms were instituted, by which the farmer becomes a critical factor. Among these harvest constraints are "edge of the field" (peah) and "gleanings" (leket). Peah calls for not harvesting every last hard-to-get location in the field. This produce should be left for those experiencing poverty. Leket refers to a situation during harvest time when one or two stalks of produce accidentally (but inevitably) fall to the ground; once they leave the farmer's grasp, they are no longer his. They become ownerless and are designated for the indigent. Similarly, if some grapes or small grape clusters fall to the ground during the vintage, these, too, belong to the needy. An additional category refers to forgotten produce (shichacha), where some sheaves of grain may have been inadvertently left in the field: "It shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow."[1]

These commandments comprise several ways that societal units ensure that no one is left behind and that the landless population can take an active part in their sustenance. Thus, the farmer in the course of his harvest hopefully felt a sense of fulfillment that in his work he was also improving the lot of those less fortunate. Note that these commandments call for the farmer to leave the produce behind for those in need to actively collect it rather than offering to deliver it to them.


Most modern societies have mechanisms that aid the needy (taxation, anyone?). Private philanthropies contribute immensely to helping society's weaker members by providing grants or collecting private donor funds to offer services to those in need. Organized or informal volunteering has proven beneficial to both helpers and recipients. Volunteering gets you out there, places you in a social sphere with others that enjoy what you enjoy, expands your career network, and facilitates exploring new career paths. If you've found the context appropriate for you, it will provide you with a sense of personal fulfillment by receiving an appreciative smile or by knowing that you helped improve someone's life situation. Aside from giving you a sense of purpose, volunteering has been shown to enhance confidence and even combat depression.

Many people seek out a career and a workplace that offer opportunities to be of direct assistance to those in need, such as medicine, social work, and others. Other people can frame their job as contributing to a better world, even in less obvious fields , such as entertainment, sanitation, art, or sales. To bolster the individual's sense of purpose, fulfillment, and meaningfulness at work, many workplaces have discovered that initiating programs that offer their workers hands-on opportunities to give to society provides a win-win-win scenario, providing advantages for the worker, the recipient of aid, and the organization. These include extra-curricular opportunities, sometimes paid, that typically have nothing to do with the organization's tasks.

The 2015 Deloitte Millennial Survey[2] of 7800 Millennials representing 29 countries appears to confirm the centrality of 'purpose' and 'fulfillment' as among the motivators for this population to choose an employer and remain with them. Many workers reported being willing to take a pay cut to locate a workplace that would give them a sense of purpose. One way to foster a sense of purposeful work is to promote opportunities to give to others, whether related or unrelated to work: These activities could include collecting funds for a charity or for the employer to offer paid work hours to volunteer at a non-profit organization. While the organization could commit to sponsoring certain causes, hands-on employee participation has been shown to enhance employee engagement and loyalty to the organization. Furthermore, greater benefits were accrued when employees were actively involved in determining the target charity.[3]

In a study of college senior job seekers in Western Canada,[4] three factors stood out in what they sought in an employer: anticipated pride from being affiliated with the organization, perceived value fit, and expectations about how the organization treats its employees. Millennials have been particularly attracted to employers who incorporate information about their community involvement in their recruitment notices.

Career Tips:

  • Try to recall the last time you scheduled to help a person or an organization. What was that feeling like? Chances are that if this activity matched your interests and values, you felt great afterward. Some individuals may prefer to contribute their professional skills to a worthy non-profit, while others would deliberately pursue an activity in an altogether different field. For example, a numbers-oriented professional may want to tutor a struggling student in math, while a helping professional may prefer trying their hand at repairing medical equipment.

  • I've often recommended to clients that they review their work at week's end to identify times they felt they made a difference to someone and were proud of what they did. This recollection could reflect routine work assignments, customer relations, neighborhood involvement, or any other formal or informal activity that may have provided that welcome feeling of benefiting the other. This exercise could contribute significantly to your well-being and life satisfaction as well as arresting burnout.

  • Try this: Often, a week goes by quickly without our awareness of if or how we contributed to others. One remedy is to set aside a fixed time every week (even just a few minutes, perhaps on your day off) to call an elderly neighbor or relative or offer to order groceries for a home-bound individual. In a quotation attributed to Sally Koch, "Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day."

[1] Deuteronomy 24:19. [2] Varela, T. (2015). Mind the gaps: The 2015 Deloitte Millennial Survey—Executive summary. Deloitte. [3] Llopis, G. (n.d.). Reinventing philanthropy as an employee-centered growth strategy. Forbes. [4] Jones, D. A., Willnes, C. R., Madey, S. (2014). Why are job seekers attracted by corporate social performance? Experimental and field tests of three signal-based mechanisms. Academy of Management Journal, 57(2), 383–404.


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