Filed under: PARSHA BAHIR, PARSHA BICHUKOTY, PARSHA BIHAR, Smittah, Smittah- Sabbath year, Yovel -Jubilee Year | Tags: Amos, Chuchmah, economic laws, Elohe”m, god, Jeremiyah, Mount Sinai, Rashi, smittah, TSAVAOT, YHV"H, yovel
UPDATED MAY 28TH 2015
The land of Israel belongs to God, we are only tenets on it. The land has its right and rules by which we must live by. Most obvious are the laws of “Smitah” (Sabbath year ) and “Yovel” (Jubilee Years). Engraved on the Liberty Bell, now in Philadelphia is ” Proclaim LIBERTY through all the land to all the inhabitants thereof “. This is a mistranslation of a verse from our parsha. “You will proclaim release throughout the land for all its inhabitants.” This referring to the release, nullification of debts. Our parsha begins “and Yhv”h spoke to Moshe in Mount Sinai”. Then there follows instruction from God concerning the smittah (7th) year, laws concerning slaves, laws concerning protecting and providing for the poor and regulations regarding farming the land. The Biblical prohibition on planting and harvesting the land in the 7th year is the earliest recorded record of the much later modern farming technique of leaving fields uncultivated for a season, called “crop rotation” this allows the soil to restore nutrients.
To begin with we must ask why does this part of the Torah begin with the words “In Mount Sinai”?. Wasn’t all the Torah given at Sinai ?. There is a very important lesson to learn here. We could say that all these laws in a sense are “In mount Sinai”. The place of the Chuchmah of God. His creative inspiration. The projection of the voice of the Elohe”m Chyim (Living God). In the middle of our parsha is the law against taking interest. The prophet Isiah says “He has taken interest. Shall he live ?. He shall not live. “ The Sages say this refers to the world to come. This also refers to the aspect of the soul called Chayah . This aspect reveals Chuchmah (creative inspiration). It is because of this aspect that Rashi explains that the wicked are dead while they are still living in this world. While the righteous are alive even when their physical existence ceases. Life is only when one is enlivened by the revelation of the part of their soul called Chayah (living). Which is Divine inspiration. The law forbidding taking interest on a loan is central in our parsha. As its violation in a sense is a violation of the most central basis of the Torah to promote as Rabbi Miller says “ a happy commonwealth”. This happens when all people work together to help one another, not in competition against one another. The rules jubilee teach us a profound lesson. All Jews are landowners forever. There are no serfs. Each and every Jew alive today has a plot of land that actually belongs to him by birthright. When the laws of jubilee will take effect again the land owned by each Jewish family will return to us. It has always been ours.
In this parsha is also given the law of yovel (50th year). In this year all land returns to its original owner. Rabbi miller explains that this is to prevent homelessness. As each Jew is Given a portion in the land by God. Rabbi Bergstien once said that before a person can approach revelation of Divine thought, have a relationship of love with God. They must first love the creatures He created. They must act in a righteous way in the matters of this world. Rebuke over matters such as this is a major theme of the prophets. As error in these ways destroys the foundation for a relationship with God, God forbid. Isaiah says “Woe to those who join house to house and field to field, they draw close till there is no place (for the poor)” (5:8). Jeremiyah says “For wicked men are found among my people, they lie in wait as a trap bites. They station an ambush, they catch people. As a cage is full so are their houses full of deceit. They have become great, they have become rich. They have become fat, they have become thick. They also transgress in deeds of wickedness, they don’t plead the cause of the orphan that they should prosper. The judgment of the poor they will not judge ” (5:26) Amos says: “Who aspire on the dust of the Earth concerning the head of the poor ” (2:7) “the head of the poor” Rashi explains that all their aspiration on the earth is how they will exploit the poor. Michah says “They oppress men” (2:2). Zacharia says ”So said YHVH TSAVAOT saying, execute true judgment and perform loving kindness and mercy, each one of you to his brother. Do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the stranger or the poor man ” (7:9-10) Malachi says ”I will approach you for judgment, and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against those who swore falsely, and also against those who withhold the wages of the day laborers, of the widow and the fatherless, and those who pervert the rights of the stranger, don’t you fear me says YHVH TSAVOAT ” (3:5). These are just a few of their words. The prophets warn us greatly concerning our give and take while in this world. The parsha concludes after giving these economic laws with “You shall not make any idols”. The love of our fellow creatures is basic to act in any other way is as having a strange Go”d. They have made a idol. In 1888 a group of the most esteemed European rabbis (and the Chief Rabbi of Jaffa) came up with an innovative idea which has become known as the heter mechira (literally: permission to sell). They proposed, that just as on Passover we sell our Hametz to a non-Jew, for the Sabattical year, the entire land of Israel may be sold to a gentile, so that the Jews could work the land. …By the time the next shmita cycle came around in 1895-1896, the rabbinic authorities agreed to permit the sale of the land of Israel for that sabbatical year. The rabbis concluded that reality dictated a need for such action because the people could not observe the laws of shmita in its strict interpetation. In the years of 1910 and 1911, Rav Kook allowed for the sale of the land as well, reaffirming that although it was not ideal, it served an important purpose. …In the years that followed, the decision to sell the land was reevaluated before the arrival of each shmita cycle. Once the State of Israel was established, the Rabbanut (Chief Rabbinate) accepted the sale of the land every year. This achieves a goal of compromise with the requirements of reality while still adhering to the Torah. Another option to maintaining the laws of Smittah is called “Otzer Bait Din” (courts warehouse) this involves turning the farming land over to the Rabbinic court. This way the land is no longer owned by a individual so the produce according to some opinions can be sold by the “bait din” and the produce still retains its “smittah Kidusha”. Not everyone aggrees with this way of observing smittah either. The mitzot of observing Smittah are a unique privilege for those of this generation to those have returned to the new “Yeshuv” settlement of the Holy Land.
The laws of yovel and Smittah are only a Biblical obligation in the land of Israel when the majority of the Jewish people live in the Land of Israel, under their own rule. Today, when many Jews are dispersed throughout the world, the law of Shmitah is observed only as a Rabbinic decree and not because it is a Biblical obligation. In the economic conditions of the modern world farming is a big industry and food grown in Israel is not only consumed locally but much is exported. It would be an economic disaster to follow the strict interpretation of the laws of Shmitah. Another aspect of “smittah” Chyim Vital teaches that the Ar’I teaches that those who say that our present “smittah” (sabbatical period) is the second are in error. You will now understand the mystical reason why we call the seven millennia , which we are presently living in, the 2nd “Smittah” (sabbatical-period). It is because it is the second order of creation after the “Kings of the land of Edom.” Thus, our present sabbatical-period of seven thousand years is not the second “smittah” because it was preceded by another period of seven thousand physical years, but because it follows the spiritual “smittah” of the world of Tohu, the emanation of the seven “smittah” that preceded the present order, that of Tikun. in this respect the earlier authorities erred. They said that if this is the second sabbatical-period, then there must certainly be in the end a total of seven such periods then will be a great “yovel” (Jubilee year year). The parsha finishes saying “ You shall keep my Shabot”. Shabot is Time of the revelation of Chuchmah (creative inspiration). Which is the inheritance of those who act in love towards all creatures following the laws of the Torah day in and out till that we reach the day that will be all Shabot with the arrival of our righteous Mashiach quickly in our days.
contains “The Tochachah,” (warning rebuke) section that vividly describes the horrible calamities painfully rich detail that will befall the Jewish people if they don’t listen to God and don’t observe His commandments. (Va’Yikra 26:15).
There is One specific law whose violation is mentioned explicitly in relation to the Tochacha, “Then shall the land make up for its Shabbat years throughout the time that it is desolate and you are in the land of your enemies…It shall observe the rest that it did not observe in your Shabbat years while you were dwelling upon it” (26:34-35). Strangely, it seems that the lack of observance of the relatively remote laws of Shemittah (which occurs only once every seven years) can cause the exile. As the Seforno says, “[The Torah] singles out the laws of Shmittah of the land because failure to keep them causes exile from the land. Our right to remain in the land of Israel depends on the fulfillment of this particular commandment.
Shmittah involves three rules. First, during the seventh year of the cycle, no agricultural work such as planting or plowing may be done. Second, all produce that grows during the seventh year is considered Hefker (ownerless) and may be taken by rich and poor alike, no matter who owns the farm or planted the seeds from which the produce grew. Also, no one is allowed to hoard produce in the usual fashion of harvesting. The third rule is that the seventh year automatically cancels all loans. Borrowers are released from their obligation to pay back, and lenders are forbidden to press the borrowers for their money. The laws of the Smittah, protect the rights of the poor and down trodden upon this our dwelling in the land depends. We also see this in the words of the prophets who give us many rebukes against social injustice as the prophet Isaiah states:
” The wasted city is broken, every house is closed for entering “. (24:10)
Rabbi Kara states this is Jerusalem, formerly the joyous city, it will be called the wasted city. The Radak and Ibn Ezra tell us that most houses shall be deserted. There will be no reason for anyone to enter.
Know. “Svit” produce of the 7th year is uniquely Holy and is meant to be eaten. It is the only food with elevated Holiness, like Trumah but it is permitted for any Jew to eat, and one does not have to eat it in purity like Trumah.
In our parsha called “In my Statutes” we find not “statutes” discussed. These being the Biblical laws which defy human rational explanation, but what we find here are “mispotim” , this is the category of laws involving social regulations. We find laws concerning vows, specifically when one vows a vow to dedicate something to give to Hashem.. Beginning with a person’s valuation, then is discussed vowing a animal, his house or field and finally the parsha and the book of Vayikra (Leviticus), also called “Safer Cohaniam” concludes discussing miser, the tithe of produce and the herd and the parsha ends with the words בהר סיני. The name of last weeks parsha.. Again we see the idea as in last weeks parsha, that the social laws, “mishpotim” are essensial and fundamental thus they are delivered under the title called in “Har Seni” . This being a internal aspect of the Torah.as its written “You shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.” (Lev 19) , is the essential principle of the Torah. But why in the beginning of our parsha does it say Bichucoti (In my statutes) when “statutes” are not discussed in the parsha. ? “In my Statutes” literally alludes to the commandments called “mispotim”. As Rabbi Bergstien once said that one must first express the love of their fellow men before approaching the True love of God. Once this is achieved one can ascend upward through the love of Hashem through the “chukim” (Statutes). Thus in the midst of the statutes are the “mispotim”, as the marrow of the bone is where the blood is produced. This is enough for those who understand. The parsha begins telling us of Blessings for observing Gods Laws and curses for their non observance. The Torah requires from us observance of Its “mishotim” (Social Laws). They being a revelation of love for our fellow creations and proper conduct in society. While the inner aspect involves the expression of love of Hashem , that is expressed by “chukim”. “Chukim” are the major body of laws in safer Cohaniam, where we find laws concerning the service of the Cohaniam in the offering of the Holy Temple.. But in our parsha “Chukim” are not taught but our parsha discusses vows which are of the group of mitzvoth called “mishpotim”.. Vows are fundamental to all, as all depends on honesty. As the Torah is called Torah אמת. Thus we see here that to be in this state of “Har Sini” requires complete honesty. One may think that if they say one thing and do something else it is no big deal but in our parsha we see many curses for one who does not stand by their word. So let us never forget our “obligations” and keep our “word”. The sages say that to not fulfill what one says reflects a lack of honesty. Thus we see how careful one must be with their word. Being in “Har Sini” is being in Truth. To separate from this is to separate from life itself. Thus we see all the curses in the parsha. How much better is it to walk in truth. The Torah itself is called “Truth”.
What we examine the Hebrew text we find that here is the ONLY PLACE IN THE WHOLE TORAH WHERE YAAKOV IS spelled with an additional letter vuv before the final letter. This highly unusual. The God certainly know how to spell so this must allude to something deep.
Rashi on this brings a Midrash (Toras Kohanim 8:6) which notes that there are four other places in the prophets where this spelling is used. The sages explain that these five examples correspond to the five times that Eliyahu’s (Elijah) name is spelled unconventionally without the vuv.
The Midrash further explains that Yaakov “took” the extra letters from Eliyahu as a guarantee, that Eliyahu would one day herald in the redemption. Hence, the Midrash concludes, the source of the extra letter vuv in Yaakov’s name is the missing letter from Eliyahu’s name.
Yaakvov understood that, given Eliyahu’s mission of peace, we would need the power of the letter vuv. One of the primary grammatical uses of the letter vuv is to joins things together. This alludes to the fact that the greatest guarantee of redemption is creating peace within our communities. This is the most certain way to make sure that Eliyahu returns for the redemption.
Then we can see the worlds of our parsha fulfilled “ You shall eat the old, and bring forth the old because of the new you bring out” with our righteous Mashiach quickly in our days.
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