Parshat Behar 5775; Thoughts on Shemittah, the Ultimate Sovereign of Eretz Yisrael, and Whether Israel Plays “Small-Ball” with Her Divinely Bequeathed Legacy to the Land?

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshiyot HaShevua, Parshat Behar is being sponsored by Loren and Sora Deetza Spigelman of Ramat Beit Shemesh who wish a full, complete refuah shleima for Chaim Yechiel ben Malka (Rothman). To the Spigelman family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Behar 5775; Thoughts on Shemittah, the Ultimate Sovereign of Eretz Yisrael, and Whether Israel Plays “Small-Ball” with Her Divinely Bequeathed Legacy to the Land?

by Moshe Burt

The opening posukim of the previous three parshiyot read:

“And Hashem spoke to Moshe, after the death of the two sons of Aaron.” (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 16, posuk 1 — Parshat Acharei Mos)

“Hashem spoke to Moshe, Saying: Speak to the entire B’nei Yisrael…” (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 19, posuk 1 — Parshat Kedoshim)

“Hashem said to Moshe: Now declare this to the Kohanim…” (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 21, posuk 1 — Parshat Emor)

In each of these three parshiyot, Hashem speaks to Moshe in order to issue an instruction, be it to Aaron and his surviving sons about who may enter the Kadosh Kedoshim and when, or to the entire B’nei Yisrael to “Be Holy” — to emulate the Holiness of Hashem, or again to Aaron and his sons Elazar and Ithamar and to all of the Kohanim for all time regarding distancing themselves from tumah (impurity).

But in Parshat Behar, Hashem’s Torah adds extra emphasis in our parsha’s opening posukim by taking us back in time to relate what Hashem spoke to Moshe Rabbeinu on Har Sinai; namely the laws of the Shemittah year — the Sabbath year of rest, of restraining from planting and harvesting of crops of Eretz Yisrael for market.

Rashi asks a critical question on the very first posukim of our Parsha:

“Hashem spoke to Moshe on Har Sinai, saying: Speak to the B’nai Yisrael, and say to them: When you come to the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a Shabbat to Hashem.” (Parsha Behar, Vayikra Perek 25, posukim 1 & 2)

Rashi asks why the laws of Shemiah are singled out as having been given at Sinai. Were not all of the Mitzvot said at Sinai?” He answers that just as all of the Mitzvot; their general rules and their specifics were taught at Sinai, so too were the general rules and specifics regarding Shemittah taught at Sinai. Rashi then reasons that the posuk comes to teach us that every utterance said to Moshe, they were all from Sinai. (Rashi on Parsha Behar, Vayikra Perek 25, posuk 1)

The Hatam Sofer reiterates and expands on Rashi’s explanation, asking;

“Why did the Torah list all of the specific rules of Shemittah rather than doing so with any other commandment? The reason for doing this is because the laws of Shemittah 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)

Rav Shimson Rafael Hirsch, z”l, in the new Hirsch Chumash (published by Feldheim in 2005 and translated to English by Daniel Haberman), page 877 offers commentary on Shemittah and how it differs from Shabbos:

The prohibition of work on Shabbos relates not only to the primary categories of prohibited work…, but also to their derivatives.

The difference between Sheviyit [the seventh year] and Shabbos hinges on their meaning. Shabbos expresses homage to Hashem as the Creator and King of the Universe. Man subordinates himself — and all of the powers at his disposal to control the world — to Hashem. Hence, all exercise of creative power over matter is considered Melacha [work] which is prohibited on Shabbos…. Sheviyit, on the other hand, expresses homage to Hashem as the Master of the Land of Israel, and for this purpose it suffices to subordinate the land to Hashem’s Rule. A man of Israel remembers that his land belongs to Hashem, and that he is merely a stranger or sojourner…; he then neither works his land nor gathers in its produce to ensure his livelihood… Thus, the soil of the entire country is stamped as ownerless, and for the whole year [it] declares before all that [Am] Yisrael is not the master of its land.

But it seems to this author that both Rashi’s and Hatam Sofer’s answers regarding Shemittah are not mutually exclusive. It would seem that not only is Shemittah HaKadosh Borchu’s vehicle for proving that ALL of Torah was given over on Har Sinai, that it was “a way to test whether Torah is genuine” leaving future disbelievers; such as Israel’s political, academic, judicial elitists and intelligencia who would give the land or any part of it away as just ordinary real estate — hard-pressed to disprove the fact that Torah was given to Moshe from Shemayim. But because they can’t disprove the authenticity of Torah from Shemayim, they’ve therefore created a short-circuit disconnecting our historical truth from their contemporary “reality.”

It seems to this author that the mitzvah of Shemittah, the Shabbat for the land, was given to in order to connect the Shabbos of B’nai Yisrael with the Shabbos year of the Land of Israel. In this way, it seems obvious to this author that Hashem has inextricably linked the two — the B’nai Yisrael and the Land of Israel — for all time. And in doing so, Hashem serves a reminder upon B’nai Yisrael that, He, our Creator is our ruler and that He is the sole and ultimate owner of Eretz Yisrael.

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin in “Growth Through Torah” (pages 291-292) cites Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz regarding Hashem’s Rulership of the B’nai Yisrael and Ownership of Eretz Yisrael:

Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz cites the Raavad (Introduction to Baalai Nefesh) that a fundamental principle behind the commandments is that: “they are to remind us constantly that we have a Creator who is our Ruler.” The Almighty gave us this earth, but after using the earth for some time a person can mistakenly think that the earth belongs to him, and can forget that the Almighty is the real owner. Therefore, in all that we do there are commandments that contain restrictions to show that the Creator is above us. …The Torah stresses… that the commandment to rest on the seventh year applies to the land which the Almighty gave us…. A commandment to refrain from work on the land in the seventh year [is] to help us internalized the awareness that He is the true boss of the earth.

This is also the lesson we learn from the weekly Shabbos… It shows a person that the Almighty is the One who gives him the power to work on the other days of the week…. a weekly reminder that we have a ruler who is our ultimate authority. (Daas Torah, Sefer Vayikra)

For us, the Land of Israel is a one-of-a-kind, exclusive, prime piece of real estate to be loved, embraced, possessed, tended and cared for. We see this precious, beautiful land, from Gush Katif to Chevron to the Banias, as a precious gift from G’d to his special bride, his unique people. We thank Hashem at every opportunity for giving us this glorious land and for the fact that we live here; in Jerusalem, in Chevron, in Tel Aviv, in Haifa, in Beersheva, in Tzfat, in Yehuda, the Shomron, the Golan and, not to mention — in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

It seems absolutely apparent that Hashem is also conveying to us — the observant, Torah world: to all perceptive enough and with sufficient emunah to hear, that there is but one place that Am Yehudi can call home and where a Jew can be complete; with its Divine links going back to Avraham Avinu’s destination on leaving his parental home, Am Yisrael’s destination upon going up from Egypt and emphatically spoken by Hashem to Moshe Rabbeinu at Har Sinai in the opening posukim of our parsha — Eretz Yisrael, with all else being temporary, transient.

As a testament to the inextricable link between Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael, an item is periodically reported in the media regarding a link between Shemittah, last summer’s Gaza war and a nace which prevented a major attack from a Gaza terror tunnel which could have caused immense casualties. Written by Rabbi Binny Freedman, this report tells:

…A group of ultra-Orthodox residents from Bnei Brak came to a field near the Gaza strip to harvest wheat for Pesach. Every summer they search for wheat ripe enough to harvest in August — when the sun dries the wheat most intensely as part of the process in producing shmura matzah (matzo made from wheat specially guarded against moisture to prevent it from rising and becoming unleavened). The wheat is then stored till its use in baking matzos in the spring.

Since this is a Shemittah (sabbatical) year, they needed to harvest enough for two years’ worth of matzos. At Kibbutz Sufa, right next to the border with Gaza, they found a large field sown in mid-January (apparently a rare occurrence) with 2,000 acres of green wheat — was exactly what they needed.

With Operation Protective Edge’s air campaign under way, they could see the pillars of smoke over Gaza, and the Israeli air force hitting back against the Hamas missile launchers, but were nonetheless able to harvest the wheat and load it onto trucks for the cleaning and storage process in the plant located further north.

Two days later, in what is now a well-documented event, 13 terrorists, armed to the teeth, emerged from a tunnel which led from the Gaza strip and opened into the wheat fields of Kibbutz Sufa. The terrorists had been counting on emerging unnoticed amidst the tall wheat stalks all of which had just been cut down by the Bnei Brak Matzoh bakers. As such, they were immediately spotted by the Israeli army and were prevented from launching what would have been a horrendous terrorist attack intended to hit nearby homes all at once.

It is sad indeed that there are some amongst the observant, Torah world who would separate from their fellow observant Jews, would coerce and disparage their brethren not exactly like them rather than outreaching to them, and who have not yet internalized that Hashem Has Brought Am Yisrael back to Our Home and has given us tools to facilitate His bringing about our eventual completeness and unity.

Finally, there was a particularly powerful Op-Ed piece which appeared on the Israel National News site about ten days ago authored by New York-based novelist Jack Engelhard entitled: Dear Israel — Stop Playing “Small Ball”. In the piece Engelhard writes:

I’m pretty sure it was Mark Twain who compared Jews to horses – if they knew their own strength we should be afraid to ride them.

That was in the days of Herzl before everything, or rather at the start of everything.

I am no Mark Twain but in my stays and service in Israel I noticed something of an inferiority complex among my brothers and sisters, or call it a grasshopper mentality that remains a legacy from our days in the Wilderness when the Spies misinformed us about “giants” who lived on the other side.

Compared to them, compared to the rest of the world, what are we? Yes, grasshoppers.

That attitude is to be expected, I suppose, because after 2,000 years of being granted no favors, Jews became conditioned to expect nothing and to be grateful for anything. At the time of the Partition Plan, the Jews said thank you, and thank you again even after British White Papers made Israel smaller and smaller.

Gratitude in excess can be hazardous. It’s led modern Israel into making lethal concessions from lopsided prisoner swaps to land giveaways that produced nothing except more disrespect, more hatred, more terror, more war, with Gaza the ultimate proof of what goes wrong when the Jewish State extends a generous hand to Palestinian Arabs.

Israel trained itself to accept abasement and unlike the nations, only Israel is to desist from pride and glory.

But times have changed, dramatically. Who imagined that one day Israel would sell oil to the Arabs? Who imagined that one day Arab eyes would turn to Israel for help?

That day is here, and as reported by the BCN network, Egyptian TV personality Tawfik Okasha called Netanyahu “our dear friend” and pleaded with Israel to take out the Bushehr Nuclear Reactor. “Put your trust in God and bomb it,” Okasha demanded. “We are with you and if you need fuel for the jets, we will give it to you.”

That is Egypt talking but it can just as well be Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States or whatever regional sovereignty suffers from the terror of ISIS and Iran.

Like it or not, Israel is the dominant military power in the region. Indeed, it is Israel that has America’s back.

The dominoes keep falling and to mention Libya and Yemen is only to begin. Kings quake at the coming of al-Qaeda, more ISIS, more Muslim Brotherhood. It is Arab against Arab, tribe against tribe, hundreds of thousands taken to slaughter, millions uprooted. There is chaos. There are no limits. There are no borders.

… The duty of greatness has been thrust upon the Jewish State. Let no politician waste it away.

Engelhard’s portrayal of today’s events would seem to indicate that a substantial part of Middle East Arabia looks to Israel with respect and awe as THE preeminent military/political power, in a way not seen since the period immediately following the Six Day War. Although Engelhard never mentions HaKadosh Borchu, the ultimate sovereign ruler of all, for all who are Avadim Hashem, this piece points out the obvious; how Hashem continues to maneuver events to validate the connection of Am Yehudi and Shabbos, Shemittah and the Jews’ Divine sovereign right and legacy to Eretz Yisrael. If only we would but see, intellectualize Hashem’s control of events and act accordingly on these signs: politically, militarily, diplomatically, and toward each other.

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 — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone 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, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

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.

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