14 May 2015 Lessons in Waiting
In the first of this week’s two Parshios, Parshas Behar, the Torah commands us regarding the Shemittah year (the 7th Sabbatical year), when the Holy Land lies fallow, and all produce is considered ownerless – available to man and animal alike. The Torah says: “And Hashem spoke to Moshe at Har Sinai, saying: Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, ‘When you come to the land that I am giving to you, the land shall rest, a rest to Hashem’” (Lev.25:1-2).
What is the connection between Sinai and Shemittah (see Rashi to Lev.25:1)? Weren’t all the other 612 mitzvos d’Oraisa, as well as all the mitzvos d’Rabanan, given at Sinai as well? Why is Shemittah linked to Sinai?
While there are many interpretations offered, I will share with you a beautiful insight that someone shared with me after class this week:
We know that at the time of the giving of the Torah, Hashem had to wait, so to speak, for the Israelites to come to receive the Torah. Hence, “tikun layl Shavuos”: there is a custom to stay up all night learning Torah on the night of Shavuos, to repair the lateness of our forefathers’ arrival at Har Sinai.
Furthermore, it was at Har Sinai that the nation did not wait for Moshe to descend from the mountain (Ex.32:1). In their panic and hysteria, they proceeded to fashion, and worship, a golden calf.
Hashem was ready to give the Torah, and we made Him, kavi’yachol, wait for us! In doing so, we were late for the most glorious Divine Revelation ever known to mankind. And in our impatience and haste, we miscalculated the day and time of Moshe’s descent from the summit of Mt. Sinai, and we tragically failed and shamefully sinned.
And now we come to the Shemittah year… The Sabbatical year when the land of Israel lies fallow. A year when the orange and olive groves, and the wheat and barley fields, all become ownerless; owned, of course, by the One Owner of all. It is a year where we sit back, and we wait… We wait for Hashem to provide for us, despite our lack of toil. With patience, we wait for Hashem to take care of us, because certainly Hashem can do whatever He wants!
It was at Har Sinai that Hashem gave us the laws of Shemittah.
At Sinai we made Hashem wait for us, and at Sinai we did not wait for Moshe, as we should have. Shemittah is a time to undo the errors of Sinai – our lackadaisical attitude on the one hand, and our impatience on the other hand – and reconnect with Hashem.
“Judaism,” R’ Soloveitchik zt’l writes, “taught man how to assemble patiently the debris of the shattered tablets and restore their original integrity…how to rise above a black and gaping precipice alone, how to retrace one’s steps up the mountain along its winding and curving paths, how to wait for the Almighty, even though He is sometimes slow in joining man” (Italics added. Vision & Leadership, p.162).
Even during the difficult times in life, when perhaps we perceive that Hashem is “slow in joining man”, He will always be there for us – all we have to do is wait.
As we approach Zman Matan Tora’sainu, may we be ready and waiting to accept Hashem’s greatest gift, for it is our life and the length of our days.
Wishing you all a peaceful Shabos Kodesh,