Parshiyot Behar/Bechukotai 5770: Shabbos, Shemittoh, Eretz Yisrael and Denial by Rulers Lacking Torah

by Moshe Burt

Parshiyot Behar and Bechukotai are another of a number of power-packed doubleheaders, this one emphasizing the connection between the Jew and Eretz Yisrael.

Our Parshiyot parallel the laws of Shabbos with Shemittoh. And so, six days you shall work and you shall rest, refrain from all manner of avodah on the seventh day… to keep it Holy, just as in emulation of Hashem’s creation of the universe. When the laws of Shabbos are paralleled with the laws of Shemittoh: ‘I will command My blessing during the sixth year and it will provide produce for three years’, we are able to understand the Hatam Sofer’s explanation;

The laws of Shemittoh prove that the Torah was given in Shemayim (heaven). Had the Torah been of mortal origin, how could any human promise, ‘I will command My blessing during the sixth year and it will provide produce for three years’? — something which is beyond the realm of the natural, and a way to test whether Torah is genuine. (Torah Gems, Aharon Yaakov Greenberg, Parsha Behar, page 331)

And then we have Aish HaTorah’s Rav Motti Berger providing his analogy on Shemittoh in endeavoring to prove that Torah was real, genuine and from Shemayim. Rav Berger, would ask how, if Torah was merely a nice document which a group of guys once got together in one guy’s basement to write as a set of guidelines for how men should properly live, how could mortal man make such a fantastic promise as Shemittoh? How could man make a promise that if we refrain from working the land in the seventh year, we would be provided for during the sixth year to sufficiently cover needs for the sixth, seventh and eighth years? People who were not previously knowledgeable in Shemittoh and who held that Torah was man-made are hard-pressed to disprove the fact that Torah was given to Moshe from Shemayim.

We see that the halachot of Shabbos and the halachot of Shemittoh connect and bond the Jew and his Land — “Eretz Yisrael” for eternity, or as expressed in an oldies ballad from the late 1950s; “The Twelfth of Never” sung and recorded by Johnny Mathis, Donnie Osmond and others. For us, the Land of Israel is a one-of-a-kind, unique land granted by Hashem to His Am Yehudim — his Am Segula: Light unto the other nations. His Land — a land like none other, is to be loved, embraced, possessed, tended and cared for.

And to reinforce that bond and connection, our parsha contrasts the brachot which the B’nai Yisrael will receive for cleaving to and adhering to the laws of Torah with the klalot, the punishments which will befall the Jews if they stray away from Torah or rebel against Hashem’s dominion over the world.

Rabbi Meyer Fendel wrote in a Young Israel Parsha Sheet on Bechukotai in 1995 regarding a posuk from amidst the terrible tidings of the Tochocha (the reproof);

“I will make the land desolate; and your foes who dwell upon it will be desolate.” (Parsha Bechukotai, Sefer Vayikra, Perek 26, posuk 32) He then brings a Rashi on the posuk, “This is good tidings for Israel, that her enemies will not find happiness in the Land and she will remain … barren from her inhabitants.”

Rabbi Fendel then reasons that a question may be asked: “How will Israel benefit if her enemies will… be unable to inhabit the land?” He brings a Ramban which concurs with Rashi but which adds something more;

“This is also a great proof and promise, for in the whole inhabited world, one cannot find such a goodly land which was [once] inhabited and yet is as ruined as she is today, for since the time that we left her, she has not accepted any nation or people, and though they all try to settle her, their efforts are in vain.”

In essence, Rabbi Fendel expresses that the Ramban tells us that the Land ‘went into Galut’ along with the B’nai Yisrael and could not bear harvest to strangers on her soil:

“Herein lies the good tiding, in which … Chazal found a source of hope: the Land would never produce for strangers — but for Klal Yisrael returning home, she would. Eretz Yisrael lay dormant for 2,000 years, … simply because she was awaiting the return of her children.”
“… The Land was so barren and so desolate that one could not fail to see this as fulfillment of the Biblical “I will lay waste to the land.” (Another translation; Parsha Bechukotai, Sefer Vayikra, Perek 26, posuk 32)
And yet Chazal saw the hope and foresaw the return of B’nai Yisrael to the land: “The Land will wait and remain desolate, as a sign both of the sins of Israel and it’s guaranteed return.” (Parsha Bechukotai, Rabbi Meyer Fendel, National Council of Young Israel Parsha sheet, 27 May, 1995)

A commentary in Sefer L’lmode Ul’lamed (page 126) adds another dimension to Rabbi Fendel’s Parsha HaShevua. Earlier in our Parsha, the Tochochah, the admonishment, the reproof, is explicit as to the punishments that will befall B’nai Yisrael if they violate Hashem’s Torah:

“I (Hashem), will set my face against you and you will be smitten before your enemies. They that hate you will rule over you.” (Parsha Bechukotai, Sefer Vayikra, Perek 26, posuk 17)

The commentary is as follows;

“The text implies that included among the enemies will be those from Yisrael, enemies from within. These enemies, say our Rabbanim, are the most vicious of adversaries.” They are the most dangerous of all enemies. “They are traitors against their own kind who know where their fellow men are most vulnerable.” (Sefer L’lmode Ul’lamed, Parsha Bechukotai, page 126)

They are Jews who seem to deny their roots and do not accept their Judaism. They put their “Emunah” in mortals — in the prowess of man, in themselves and their self-interests and self-enrichment, in the super-power of the time while seeking to destroy their fellow Jews, Jewish roots, laws, history and heritage.

It is tragic that often the worst enemy of the Jewish people, and those most dangerous to the Jews, are the Jews themselves.

As a result, the B’nai Yisrael is often deceived by it’s own evil rulers into feeling that all is helpless and casting doubts as to a Divine being Who Runs the World. These evil rulers seek to subvert Torah, our history and our traditions to suit their own ends and self-interests. We see the deception of Israel’s current prime minister and Banana Republic government who are NOT strongly rooted in Torah and thus cave to the avodah zora of mortal man — to super-power pressure as an appropo example of evil governance. Israel’s deceptive governance has initiated building freezes first in Yehuda and Shomron, and now in Jerusalem while trying to deceive the governed masses with denials that building has ceased in Israel’s capital.

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated alive returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage to prevent the possibility of Chas V’Callila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.