Parshas Behar: Defying Logic, Trusting in Hashem

The first of this week’s double parshios (Behar-Bechukosai), Parshas Behar, begins with the words: וַיְדַבֵּ֤ר ה’ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה בְּהַ֥ר סִינַ֖י לֵאמֹֽר, and Hashem spoke to Moshe at Har Sinai, saying: דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם כִּ֤י תָבֹ֙אוּ֙ אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֲנִ֖י נֹתֵ֣ן לָכֶ֑ם וְשָׁבְתָ֣ה הָאָ֔רֶץ שַׁבָּ֖ת לַה – Speak to the Bnei Yisrael and say to them, When you come to the land that I am giving to you, the land shall have a cessation, a rest, to Hashem (Vayikra 25:1-2). 

The Torah then continues to command us regarding the Shemitta cycle; for six years the land may be worked, and in the seventh year, it is a Shemitta – Sabbatical – year, a year of rest for the land, when no agricultural work may be done.

Rashi asks: Why does the first pasuk of the parsha tell us that Hashem transmitted the laws of the Shemitta year to Moshe at Har Sinai?  וַהֲלֹא כָל הַמִּצְוֹת נֶאֶמְרוּ מִסִּינַי – Were not all the laws of Torah transmitted to Moshe at Sinai?  Rashi answers cryptically, by noting: אֶלָּא מַה שְּׁמִטָּה נֶאֶמְרוּ כְלָלוֹתֶיהָ וּפְרָטוֹתֶיהָ וְדִקְדּוּקֶיהָ מִסִּינַי אַף כֻּלָּן נֶאֶמְרוּ כְלָלוֹתֵיהֶן וְדִקְדּוּקֵיהֶן מִסִּינַי – just like the laws of Shemitta, its principles, details and fine points, were given at Sinai, so too, all the mitzvos – their principles and details, were given at Sinai.

This answer of Rashi seems not to answer the question, and it has led to much discussion by other commentators, as to its meaning.

R’ Yitzchok Zilberstein explains, in the name of the Chasam Sofer, “The reason Shemitta and Mount Sinai are juxtaposed is because Shemitta is a clear proof that the Torah was given by Hashem, and not fabricated by Moshe Rabbeinu.  For what human being would dare to make the promise that I will ordain My blessing for you in the sixth year and it will yield a crop sufficient for a three year period (25:21)?  Only Hashem, Who is omnipotent, can guarantee such a thing.  Shemitta, therefore, serves as a proof of the revelation at Sinai” (Aleinu L’Shabei’ach, Vayikra, p.394). 

Hence, we can understand the connection between Shemitta and Har Sinai.  The promise that the land will provide for the sixth year (the final year in the seven year cycle when work may be done), the seventh year (when the land lies fallow), and the eighth year (when nothing has been planted since the sixth year!) clearly proves the truth of the Revelation at Sinai.  Only Hashem – the Kol Yachol (All Able) – can provide in this fashion.

The Chidushei HaRim (Founder of the Ger Chassidus, d.1866) would say: The Psalmist tells us, ‘The Heavens are G-d’s, and the earth He gave to man’ (Ps.115:16) – He gave the earth to man so that man should make it heavenly (Quoted in Great Jewish Wisdom, Artscroll, p.27).

When we recognize and live with the reality that all the bounty we have is from Hashem, and that only He can provide for all of our needs, we are making the earth heavenly, and reminding ourselves of the eternity of the revelation at Sinai.

R’ Zilberstein writes that, therefore, “Shemitta is also a reflection of a person’s belief in Hashem and in the Torah, because only if he has tremendous emunah (faith) can a person keep Shemitta and let his fields lie fallow for an entire year”  (Aleinu L’Shabei’ach, Vayikra, p.394). 

Shemitta further proves our emunah, faith, in G-d, for only a nation of believers would allow their land to lie fallow and know that the Almighty will provide enough food for three years!  According to logic and reason, this is absurd.  Yet, our nation is a people of believers, sons of believers. 

In regard to faith, R’ Soloveitchik zt’l remarked (1973), “Faith means an absolute act which results in complete reliance without any reservations, conditions, or qualifications.  Faith means complete trust… Faith in G-d requires that the faithful suspend judgement from time to time.  It is not only the surrender of the body but of the mind.  Emunah confronts man with the challenge to suspend his intuitive judgment and to act irrationally and illogically.  At times man must act in a certain fashion even though he does not understand why he is required to conduct himself in such a manner” (The Rav, v.2, Rakeffet-Rothkoff, p.1).

Only when we suspend judgement of ration and reason, “farming will yield bounty, not farming will lead to starvation,” can we keep the Shemitta year and recognize, with pure faith, that Hashem, the Master of all, will continue to provide. 

And finally, R’ Zilberstein writes, “The Imrei Shefer (13th C., Spain) offers another explanation of the connection between Shemitta and Mount Sinai.  Shemitta, he says, is called Shabbos, for just as Shabbos is the source of blessing for the other six days of the week, Shemitta is the source of blessing for the other six years of the Shemitta cycle.  If a person allows his fields to lie fallow during Shemitta, that is what will bring him success during the years when he does work the land.

“Har Sinai serves as an embodiment of this concept.  When Hashem came to give the Torah, all of the mountains presented their credentials, as it were, in the hopes that the Torah would be given on them.  Mount Sinai, however, was modest and reticent, standing at the side and not touting its own qualifications for having the Torah given upon it.  That was why Mount Sinai merited to become greater than all of the other mountains. 

“This is the connection between Shemitta and Mount Sinai; just as Mount Sinai’s inactivity was what led to its eventual distinction, our inactivity during Shemitta is what leads to our receiving Hashem’s blessing” (Aleinu L’Shabei’ach, Vayikra, p.395).

May we merit to make all of our earthly actions elevated, holy and heavenly; may we merit to place our faith and trust in G-d, the Provider of all, for all; and may we humble ourselves before the All-Powerful One, thereby transforming ourselves into a conduit for His blessing.

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,


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