Sunday, May 17, 2020

Parshat Shavua Bahar, The Connection of Shmitta to Mt Sinai





I'm certainly not competing with the venerable and respected Rashi, but a half a century after making aliyah, moving to Israel, I definitely see a strong connection between Shmitta and Mt Sinai.

The connection between Shmitta and Mt Sinai is very simple. It's the paramount centrality of the Land of Israel to the foundation of Torah and Mitzvot. Since there are mitzvot that can only be observed in the Land of Israel, all Jews should be living here.


Vayikra - Leviticus - Chapter 25

1And the Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying,
אוַיְדַבֵּ֤ר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־משֶׁ֔ה בְּהַ֥ר סִינַ֖י לֵאמֹֽר:
on Mount Sinai: What [special relevance] does the subject of Shemittah [the “release” of fields in the seventh year] have with Mount Sinai? Were not all the commandments stated from Sinai? However, [this teaches us that] just as with Shemittah, its general principles and its finer details were all stated from Sinai, likewise, all of them were stated-their general principles [together with] their finer details-from Sinai. This is what is taught in Torath Kohanim (25:1). [And why is Shemittah used as the example to prove this rule, especially since the very fine details are not even specified here (Sefer Hazikkaron)?] It appears to me that its explanation is as follows: [At the plains of Moab, Moses reiterated the majority of the laws of the Torah to the Israelites before their entry into the land of Israel, this reiteration comprising most of the Book of Deuteronomy. Now,] since we do not find the laws of Shemittah [“release”] of land reiterated on the plains of Moab in Deuteronomy, we learn that its general principles, finer details, and explanations were all stated at Sinai. Scripture states this [phrase] here to teach us that [just as in the case of Shemittah,] every statement [i.e., every commandment] that was conveyed to Moses came from Sinai, [including] their general principles and finer details [and that the commandments delineated in Deuteronomy were merely] repeated and reviewed on the plains of Moab [not originally given there].
בהר סיני: מה ענין שמיטה אצל הר סיני, והלא כל המצות נאמרו מסיני, אלא מה שמיטה נאמרו כללותיה ופרטותיה ודקדוקיה מסיני, אף כולן נאמרו כללותיהן ודקדוקיהן מסיני, כך שנויה בתורת כהנים. ונראה לי שכך פירושה לפי שלא מצינו שמיטת קרקעות שנשנית בערבות מואב במשנה תורה, למדנו שכללותיה ופרטותיה כולן נאמרו מסיני, ובא הכתוב ולמד כאן על כל דבור שנדבר למשה שמסיני היו כולם כללותיהן ודקדוקיהן, וחזרו ונשנו בערבות מואב:

2Speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them: When you come to the land that I am giving you, the land shall rest a Sabbath to the Lord.
בדַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וְאָֽמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם כִּ֤י תָבֹ֨אוּ֙ אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֲנִ֖י נֹתֵ֣ן לָכֶ֑ם וְשָֽׁבְתָ֣ה הָאָ֔רֶץ שַׁבָּ֖ת לַֽיהֹוָֽה:
a Sabbath to the Lord: For the sake of the Lord, just as is stated of the Sabbath of Creation (see Exod. 20:10) [i.e., just as every seventh day is a holy Sabbath day, acclaiming that God Himself rested on the seventh day and thus acclaiming that God is the Supreme Creator of all existence, likewise, man must rest from working the land on the seventh year, for the sake of God, not for the sake of the land, so that it should gain fertility by lying fallow for a year]. — [Sifthei Chachamim ; Torath Kohanim 25:7]
שבת לה': לשם ה', כשם שנאמר בשבת בראשית:

3You may sow your field for six years, and for six years you may prune your vineyard, and gather in its produce,
גשֵׁ֤שׁ שָׁנִים֙ תִּזְרַ֣ע שָׂדֶ֔ךָ וְשֵׁ֥שׁ שָׁנִ֖ים תִּזְמֹ֣ר כַּרְמֶ֑ךָ וְאָֽסַפְתָּ֖ אֶת־תְּבֽוּאָתָֽהּ:

4But in the seventh year, the land shall have a complete rest a Sabbath to the Lord; you shall not sow your field, nor shall you prune your vineyard.
דוּבַשָּׁנָ֣ה הַשְּׁבִיעִ֗ת שַׁבַּ֤ת שַׁבָּתוֹן֙ יִֽהְיֶ֣ה לָאָ֔רֶץ שַׁבָּ֖ת לַֽיהֹוָ֑ה שָֽׂדְךָ֙ לֹ֣א תִזְרָ֔ע וְכַרְמְךָ֖ לֹ֥א תִזְמֹֽר:
Yes, I understand that for even the most Torah observant and learned Jew living out of the Land of Israel, the Laws of Shmitta appear theoretical and even irrelevant. This was certainly even more so a thousand years ago, the time of Rashi, when nobody could seriously envision fruitful Jewish agriculture and a Jewish State in the Holy Land, Land of Israel. Christian crusaders had been invading and destroying much of the Land of Israel in the name of their god. Jewish Life was under attack all over the world, especially in the Holy Land. Christian and Muslim theologians needed to prove that Judaism was dead and they were the god appointed replacements. Of course, they would then have to fight each other for the ultimate title.

A hundred and fifty years ago the Zionist Movement brought a new relevance to Shmitta and all other Torah Commandments, mitzvot that can only be observed in the Land of Israel. Close to three years ago I reviewed Rebels in the Holy Land - Mazkeret Batya - An Early Battleground for the Soul of Israel, which tells of how the pioneers who established Mazkeret Batya risked everything to revive the mitzvah of Shmitta.

Poskim, rabbis who are considered as qualified/learned to make decisions based on the Torah, must look seriously at the new realities of today and not base their decisions on Jewish Life of a thousand years ago, a hundred years ago, before the Establishment of the State of Israel and even before Israel's miraculously victory in the Six Days War. The Establishment of the State of Israel and the post-Six Day War were major game-changers for the Jewish People. Gd gave us the Torah to be lived in our world, not to be rooted to the past. We are now sovereign in the Land of Israel, and it's time for all Jews to come home. Otherwise, you may miss the boat.

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