19 May 2022 Parshas Behar: Shemittah & Har Sinai
This week’s parsha (in chutza la’aretz), Parshas Emor, teaches us about the mitzvos of Shemitta (the seventh Sabbatical year) and Yovel (the 50th Jubilee), both of which are mitzvos ha’te’luyos ba’aretz (land dependent mitzvos that are only relevant and applicable in Eretz Yisrael).
The parsha begins with:
וַיְדַבֵּ֤ר ה֙’ 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 children of Israel and say to them: When you come to the land that I am giving to you, the land shall rest, a Shabbat to Hashem (Vayikra 25:1-2).
Why does the pasuk make a point of saying that G-d transmitted these laws to Moshe at Har Sinai? Wasn’t the entirety of Torah, each and every mitzvah, transmitted to Moshe at Har Sinai? Why single out Shemitta? Rashi famously asks this question and answers:
בהר סיני… אֶלָּא מַה שְּׁמִטָּה נֶאֶמְרוּ כְלָלוֹתֶיהָ וּפְרָטוֹתֶיהָ וְדִקְדּוּקֶיהָ מִסִּינַי אַף כֻּלָּן נֶאֶמְרוּ כְלָלוֹתֵיהֶן וְדִקְדּוּקֵיהֶן מִסִּינַי
“To teach us that just as with shemittah, its general rules, details and fine points were stated at Sinai, so, too, with all the mitzvos, their general rules and fine points were stated at Sinai.”
Many commentators are puzzled by this teaching. How does this answer the original question? Weren’t all the fine points, details and nuances of every mitzvah transmitted to Moshe at Har Sinai?
Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein teaches, “The Chassam Sofer explains that the reason shemittah and Har Sinai are juxtaposed is because shemittah is a clear proof that the Torah was given by Hashem, and not fabricated by Moshe Rabbeinu, chalilah. For what human being would dare to make the promise that: וְצִוִּ֤יתִי אֶת־בִּרְכָתִי֙ לָכֶ֔ם בַּשָּׁנָ֖ה הַשִּׁשִּׁ֑ית וְעָשָׂת֙ אֶת־הַתְּבוּאָ֔ה לִשְׁלֹ֖שׁ הַשָּׁנִֽים – and I will command My blessing for you in the sixth year, and it will yield a crop sufficient for the three year period (25:21)? Only Hashem, Who is omnipotent – the Kol Yachol (All-Able) – can guarantee such a thing. Shemittah therefore serves as a proof of the entire Revelation at Sinai.
“Furthermore, Shemittah is a reflection of a person’s belief in Hashem and in His Torah, because only if one has tremendous emunah will he keep Shemittah and let his fields lie fallow for an entire year,” knowing and believing that even without his efforts, Hashem will nevertheless provide for him!
Rav Zilberstein then offers another beautiful answer, quoting the Imrei Shefer, who explains the connection between Shemittah and Har Sinai. “Shemittah is called Shabbos for just as Shabbos is the source of blessing for the other six days of the week, Shemittah is the source of blessing for the other six years of the Shemittah cycle. If a person allows his fields to lie fallow during Shemittah, that is what will bring his success during the years when he does work the land.
“Har Sinai itself serves as an embodiment of this concept. When Hashem came to give the Torah, all of the mountains presented their credentials, so to speak, in the hopes that the Torah would be given on them. Har Sinai, however, was modest and unassuming, standing at the side and not offering its own qualifications for having the Torah given upon it. That was precisely why it was chosen, and merited to become greater than all of the other mountains. This is the connection between Shemittah and Har Sinai: just as Har Sinai’s inactivity was what led to its eventual distinction, our inactivity during Shemittah is what leads to our receiving Hashem’s blessing upon the land” (Aleinu L’Shabei’ach, Vayikra, p.394-395).
What a beautiful and important lesson and reminder, especially during these weeks of Sefiras ha’Omer, as we journey, proverbially, to Matan Torah and Har Sinai once again. In order to be a vehicle and vessel where the Torah will rest, and the RS”O will dwell (keviyachol), one must internalize the teachings of Torah, Har Sinai, and Shemittah, which was specifically given at Sinai. When one is self-effacing, quietly involved in avodas Hashem, fulfilling mitzvos and engaged in Torah learning for the sake of Heaven, running away from honor while running towards opportunities for chessed, and lowers himself down, while yet recognizing his talents, abilities and capabilities – and utilizing them in the service of G-d and the people – that is precisely whereupon the blessing will flow.
Just as on Shabbos, our inactivity leads to blessing; just as Har Sinai’s humility led it to be chosen as the site for Torah; just as the rest for the land in the seventh year will lead to blessing for all the other years; so too, when a person emulates this model, upon him G-d’s blessing will flow.
Har Sinai is to Torah what Shemittah is to the Land of Israel.
Last Thursday (11 Iyar 5782/May 12, 2022) Noam Raz z’l, HY”D, a 47 year old father of six children, was killed in a special-operations gun battle with terrorists in Jenin. Police chief Kobi Shabtai said Raz, a 23-year veteran of the elite Yamam counterterrorism unit, was one of the best officers in the force. Raz was among the founders of the Kida settlement, according to a statement issued by the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council following his death. “Noam was a pillar in his community. A humble family man connected to the Land of Israel with every fiber of his being… He was loved by everyone,” the statement said. Additionally, he was a volunteer for Ichud Hatzalah and was credited with saving hundreds of lives; t’hei zichro baruch.
שֶׁכׇּל הַמַּשְׁפִּיל עַצְמוֹ, הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַגְבִּיהוֹ, וְכׇל הַמַּגְבִּיהַּ עַצְמוֹ, הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַשְׁפִּילוֹ. כׇּל הַמְחַזֵּר עַל הַגְּדוּלָּה, גְּדוּלָּה בּוֹרַחַת מִמֶּנּוּ, וְכׇל הַבּוֹרֵחַ מִן הַגְּדוּלָּה, גְּדוּלָּה מְחַזֶּרֶת אַחֲרָיו (Eruvin 13b)
A non-effacing mountain; a field at rest; a weekly Sabbath of withdrawal from the business (and business) of this world; a humble family man, a hero of Israel… it is upon these that Divine blessings will ultimately rest. May we merit to see the Divine blessings in a revealed way.
ופרוש עלינו סוכת שלומך, בברכת שבת שלום,