Gleaning. Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest. Some ancient cultures promoted gleaning as an early form of a welfare system. According to the Book of Deuteronomy and Leviticus, farmers should leave corners of their fields unharvested, should not pick up that which was dropped, and should not harvest any over-looked produce that had been forgotten when they harvested the majority of a field. On one of the two occasions that this is stated in Leviticus, it adds that in vineyards, some grapes should be left ungathered, a statement also found in Deuteronomy. These verses additionally command that olive trees should not be beaten on multiple occasions, and whatever remains from the first set of beatings should be left. According to Leviticus, these things should be left for the poor and for strangers, and Deuteronomy commands that it should be left for widows, strangers, and paternal orphans. The Book of Ruth tells of gleaning by the widow Ruth to provide for herself and her mother-in-law, Naomi, who was also a widow. Jesus and his disciples practiced a form of gleaning as they walked through grain fields breaking off heads of wheat to eat. In classical rabbinic literature, it was argued that the biblical regulations concerning left-overs only applied to grain fields, orchards, and vineyards, and not to kitchen gardens; the classical rabbinical writers were much stricter in regard to who could receive the remains. It was stated that the farmer was not permitted to benefit from the gleanings, and was not permitted to discriminate among the poor, nor try to frighten them away with dogs or lions; the farmer was not even allowed to help one of the poor to gather the left-overs. However, it was also argued that the law was only applicable in Canaan, although many classical rabbinic writers, who were based in Babylon, applied the laws there too; it was also seen as only applying to Jewish paupers, but poor non-Jews were allowed to benefit for the sake of civil peace. The Shulchan Aruch argues that Jewish farmers are no longer obliged to obey the biblical rule. Nevertheless, in modern Israel, rabbis of Orthodox Judaism insist that Jews allow gleanings to be consumed by the poor and by strangers, during Sabbatical years. In eighteenth century England, gleaning was a legal right for cottagers. In a small village the sexton would often ring a church bell at eight o'clock in the morning and again at seven in the evening to tell the gleaners when to begin and end work. This legal right effectively ended after a legal case in 1788. In the modern world, gleaning is practised by humanitarian groups which distribute the gleaned food to the poor and hungry; in a modern context, this can include the collection of food from supermarkets at the end of the day that would otherwise be thrown away. There are a number of organizations that practice gleaning to resolve issues of societal hunger; the Society of St. Andrew, for example, is dedicated to the role, as is the Gleaning Network in the UK. When people glean and distribute food, they may be bringing themselves legal risk; in the Soviet Union, the Law of Spikelets criminalised gleaning, under penalty of death, or 20 years of forced labour in exceptional circumstances. In the US, the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act of 1996 limited the liability of donors to instances of gross negligence or intentional misconduct, alleviating gleaning from much of its definitions of the Good Samaritan Act, to consistently deliver surplus food from restaurants and dining facilities to emergency food centers. Gleaning was a popular subject in art, especially in the nineteenth century. Gleaning in rural France has been represented in the paintings Des Glaneuses by Jean-François Millet and Le rappel des glaneuses by Jules Breton, and explored in a 2000 documentary/experimental film, The Gleaners and I, by Agnes Varda. Vincent van Gogh's sketch of a Peasant Woman Gleaning in Nuenen, The Netherlands is in the Charles Clore collection.
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