This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parshiyot Behar/Bechukotai is being sponsored by Baruch and Tammy Labinsky of Ramat Beit Shemesh lilui nishmas Yitzchak Osher ben Yaakov. To the Labinsky 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.
In light of the recent Israeli Court ruling (this author hesitates to refer to this “court” by it’s full title as to do so could constitute a slur against the ultimate Torah Justice System, including a future Sanhedrin and Hashem, our ultimate Judge) permitting certain Tel Aviv stores and businesses to be open on Shabbos, our dual parshiyot Behar/Bechukotai take on special significance for those of us who connect our Shabbos observance with our Divinely ordained possession of the Land of Israel.
Rashi asks a critical question on the very first posukim of our Parsha Behar:
“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 Shemittoh 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 Shemittoh 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 Shemittoh rather than doing so with any other commandment?
The reason for doing this is because 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)
When contemplating this posuk, this author can’t help but recall the first introduction to observance some 28 years ago in East Windsor, NJ. As vivid as day, the recollection of Rav Motti Berger at an Aish HaTorah Shabbaton, giving his analogy on Shemittoh.
Rav Berger, in endeavoring to prove that Torah was real, genuine and from Shemayim, 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 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 were hard-pressed to disprove the fact that Torah was given to Moshe from Shemayim.
But it seems to this author that both Rashi’s and Hatam Sofer’s answers are not mutually exclusive. It would seem that not only is Shemittoh 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 Shemittoh, the Shabbat for the land, was given to us 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.
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 Hevron, in Tel Aviv, in Haifa, in Beersheva, in Tzfat, in Yehuda, the Shomron, the Golan and, not to mention — in Ramat Beit Shemesh.
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.
Hashem seems also to be conveying to us, 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 — Eretz Yisrael, and that all else is temporary, transient.
And to reinforce that bond and connection, Parshat Bechukotai contrasts the brachot which the B’nai Yisrael will receive for cleaving to, sanctifying and elevating adherence 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.
Earlier in Parshat Bechukotai, 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)
Rabbi Mordechai Katz comments in his Sefer “L’lmode Ul’lamed” on Parshat Bechukotai (page 126):
“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.”
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, by a fake “justice system(sic)” and by disunity and sectorial rivalries, into feeling fatalistic, that all is hopeless, that there is no Divine being. And through sectorial divisiveness, apathy, self interest, self-concern and self-enrichment at the expense of our fellow Jews, we play right into the hands of the leftist elitists as well as the corrupt politco, academia, courts and media — all of those who seek to subvert Torah, our history and our traditions to suit their own ends and self-interests.
So here we have a locality receiving mandate for wholesale Shabbos desecration from a flawed “court”, a body with an agenda geared toward making Israel “a nation of all its people”, thus attempting elimination of the Jews’ spirituality and meaning. This court ruling validates Shabbos desecration in spades. Surely, other localities will travel the same road to the court as did Tel Aviv.
And, as this author has previously cited on several occasions, there is also have a new political entity, based in the spiritual, historical unity of Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael, whose platform states:
“‘Bechira’ is a value shared by all Jews, from the most religious to the least. It is not the state’s place, nor is it G’d’s desire, that the state force religion. We will provide an atmosphere to encourage people to keep Shabbos, but each community will make its own decisions, and private companies can fulfill those needs.”
Granted, that this political grouping appears to hold by a principle of “separation of religion and state governance” and that this principle appears to be held in the spirit of bringing about unity among the entirety of Am Yisrael, no matter how well-meaning this group’s principle and platform framing words are, they still, nevertheless according to this author’s understanding of Halacha, open the door of Shabbos desecration still further. They nonetheless seem to this author to be, albeit unintentionally, playing into the hands of the nefarious liberal, socialist, progressive, revisionist forces of governance and courts mentioned above who would seize upon any and every opportunity to strip the Jews of their Judaism and spirituality in the name of “a nation of all its people”: Israeli’ism — whatever that is.
This author honestly believes that this political entity must revisit and reassess its platform position regarding localities making their own decisions regarding transporting of a public on Shabbos in light of this court ruling.
To continue down the path opened by this ruling is to ride a slippery slope which only leads to more desecration, not less, dilution of Shabbos until we reach the point where, in the eyes of Shemayim, we have forfeited any justification or right we have to Eretz Yisrael.
Rabbi Meir Mazuz, Member of Knesset in the Shas party recently stated, regarding his party’s leader who is Interior Minister:
“Shabbat is above everything, we need to explain this to them.”
… “A person needs to observe the Torah. Don’t fear, be ‘as light as a deer and as bold as a leopard’ in your task as Interior Minister. Say ‘we don’t do this’…. I am sure they did not ask their local Torah sages!”
“The Shabbat is a present to the Jewish nation. Without the Shabbat, we would have become completely assimilated. Those who founded the State of Israel were secular, but they understood the value of Shabbat.”
“‘More than Israel guards the Shabbat, the Shabbat guards Israel’ – this was not said by our sages! It was said by a secular scholar, who understood the value of Shabbat and how important Shabbat is to the Jewish nation. Another scholar said, ‘Shabbat turns a running dog into a prince every week.’ Shabbat turns you into a prince! Everyone understood that we need to keep Shabbat publicly.”
…Wednesday’s decision by the Supreme Court to allow certain Tel Aviv stores to be open on the Jewish Sabbath “hurts… and I hope that something can overcome this decision in such a way that a more formal framework can prohibit the opening of supermarkets in public on Shabbat.”
Noting that he lives in an area which is not hareidi or otherwise religious, Rabbi Stern said, “It’s not my personal problem, but how a Jewish state should look on Shabbat.”
May we, the B’nei 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 and that the expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of two and a half years ago. 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 prevent Chas V’Challila 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 Al’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.