Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 4 No. 33

Parshas Behar

Because the Land is Mine

The Torah uses two expressions with regards to the Yovel year. These not only portray in a nutshell the main objective of the Yovel-laws, but also reflect one of the most fundamental principles in Judaism. "And the land shall not be sold permanently," the Torah writes, "because the land is Mine, since you are strangers and sojourners with Me." (25:23)

The Torah is reminding us that neither does the land (Eretz Yisroel) really belong to us, nor are our rights in the land automatically secure. The real owner of the land is G-d and we only live in it by His grace and on His conditions. Therefore, the buyer and the seller need not be perturbed if the sale of land which they are transacting is restricted to a maximum of fifty years, after which time it must be returned to the seller. After all, it is not the seller's own land that he is selling, but Hashem's.

It is similar to the statement of Dovid Ha'melech: "For everything is from You (Hashem) and from Your Hand we give it [back] to You" (Divrei Ha'yomim I, 29:14), from which Chazal derive the saying "Give to Him what is His, because you and yours are His". (Pirkei Ovos 3:8) The latter point corresponds to the former statement in our possuk ("Because the land is Mine") and the former point to the latter statement ("since you are strangers...")

Perhaps it is in order to drive home the lesson that G-d is the ultimate Master - of both ourselves and our property - that the Torah issues a seemingly strange command with regard to the dinim of many of the matnos aniyim (gifts to the poor). When leaving leket, shikchoh, pei'oh (of the corn) and peret and olelos (of the grapes) we are not permitted to assist the poor man to gather his due, but must leave it totally alone, allowing the poor man to collect it at his own discretion. It might seem at first a little difficult to understand why the owner should not be permitted to help the poor man, or at least to encourage him, to collect what is anyway his (as indeed is the din regarding the giving of charity, terumos and ma'asros, etc.), thereby allowing the owner, to participate in the mitzvah.

It appears however, that the Torah on the one hand, has afforded the land-owner the opportunity to amass huge merits by performing a variety of acts of tzedokoh. On the other hand, the Torah has issued us with a branch of tzedokoh which denies us any positive participation. Hashem is looking after the poor and the needy, allowing him to take his dues whilst the owner has nothing more to do than to leave the commodity in question in the field.

Giving to the poor and helping him to gather his dues is a great mitzvah to be sure, but it does give one a certain feeling of self-satisfaction and smugness - the feeling that "I have given away what is mine for charity!" G-d wants to impress upon us that we are not the absolute masters of what we own and that the choice to give or not to give is not quite as voluntary as it seems. Hence He gave us this set of mitzvos, commanding us to leave the crop in the field and to allow the poor man to help himself. "It is not yours," G-d is telling us, "but Mine. And it is I who wish the poor man to receive a part of the crops of the field that you are working" - gently reminding us simultaneously to acknowledge who the real owner of our fields is.

In all probability, this is also the underlying principle of the Shmittah-year. It is what Rashi means when he writes at the beginning of the Parshah, commenting on the Possuk (25:2) "Shabbos for Hashem" - 'in the name of Hashem', just as the Torah writes by Shabbos Bereishis [Shabbos]." It is at first not clear what Rashi is adding to the possuk, or as to why he compares the Shmittah to Shabbos Bereishis.

What Rashi is telling us here, and what is not so clear from the possuk itself, is that the objective of the land lying fallow in the Shmittah-year, is to remind us that G-d is the Master of the land and that we are only serfs in His land. We cannot help but acknowledge this when, once in every seven years, our lands become public property, whether we agree or not, because they have been declared as such by their true Owner, and that concept in turn, is similar to the Shabbos, which reminds us that Hashem created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, and that He is therefore the undisputed Master of the world.

The land belongs to Hashem and, by the same token and for the same reason, so do we!

Adapted from the Torah Temimah

At Shevi'i, the Torah deals with the laws of a Jew who is sold to a gentile. He began by selling his moveable possessions, because he did business with Shmittah produce. But he did not do teshuvah, going from punishment to punishment, as he went from sin to sin, having to sell his lands, his daughter, borrow on heavy interest, until finally, he had no choice but to sell himself to a fellow-Jew. And now he becomes forced, by circumstances, to sell himself, first to a Ger Toshav, and then to a gentile. According to Rashi and Targum Yonoson, "o le'eiker" actually refers to idolatry itself, to which he is sold, not to worship it, but as a janitor.

It is truly remarkable that one is able to suffer such retribution and to continue to sin, and sin, and sin.

This can be attributed to two factors: firstly, of course, one has to have the basic faith that it is Hashem who rewards and punishes a person for his good deeds or for his bad ones. To the extent that one fails to grasp this, no amount of retribution will lead a person to the realisation that it is his very own sins that are creating all his problems. And secondly, each sin not only leads to another, but it also clouds one's vision of the truth, creating another barrier between him and his Creator. It is the sin and its constant repetition that distort the sinner's vision, until he becomes totally oblivious to the sin and its consequences.

History of the World ( Part 32)
(Adapted from the Seder Ha'doros)

They encamp in Moroh, where they are given some mitzvos: Shabbos, Poroh Adumoh and Dinim. (According to the Zohar, Moshe makes Priy'ah on Klal Yisroel.) A man gathers wood on Shabbos (some say he is Tzlofchod).

They travel to Eilim, where they find twelve fountains and seventy date-palms. They travel from there to Midbar Sin. On the 15th Iyar the cakes that they took out of Egypt come to an end. The Mon and the quails begin to fall on a Sunday.

Moshe introduces the first b'rochoh of Birchas Ha'Mozon, the b'rochoh of "Ha'zon". He also institutes that one should learn the dinim of Pesach on Pesach, etc., and the groups of Cohanim, between El'ozor and Iysomor, who will take it in turn to serve on a weekly basis. He also instigates the seven days of mourning and the seven days of Sheva b'rochos. (In addition, he writes, besides the Chumash, the book of Iyov.) They travel to Olush and then to Refidim, where they are attacked by Tzfo's brother, Amolek, son of Elifaz ben Eisov, with 1,800,000 men, all of them magicians. They defeat Amolek.

Hashem tells Moshe to warn Yisroel that in order to enter Eretz Yisroel, they are obligated to destroy Amolek, and that any king who takes pity on Amolek, will be cut off from his people.

Yehoshua is now 42.

Re'uel (Yisro) joins Moshe in the desert with his two sons.

On Rosh Chodesh Sivan, they arrive in Midbar Sin, where they find the Clouds of Glory - Mattan Torah - the Luchos - the breaking of the Luchos.

The second Luchos - the Mishkon - on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the Mishkon is permanently erected. Nodov and Avihu die - Inauguration of the Mizbei'ach by the Princes of the tribes.

Yisroel bring the Korban Pesach - Pesach Sheini.

They leave Har Sinai and camp in Kivros ha'Ta'avoh, where they remain for thirty days - Chatzeiros, where they wait seven days for Miriam.

The spies. Tish'oh be'Av G-d decrees that they will wander in the desert for forty years and that they will die there - the ten spies die in Ellul.

Korach's rebellion.

Tzefo, son of Elifaz, begins to rule in France.

Latianus, King of the Kittim, dies and Avimnus ascends the throne. He will reign for thirty eight years.

Yisroel wander in the desert for nineteen years. They travel all in all twenty journeys.

They arrive in Kodesh, where they remain for another nineteen years.

The Yevusi build the walls of Yerusholayim, and a strong fortification which will later be called Tziyon.

Sichon sends for Be'or, son of Yeinis, son of Bil'om, Par'oh's advisor and to Bil'om his son from P'sor of Aram Naharayim, asking him to curse Mo'ov. Be'or and Bil'om respond, and Sichon defeats Mo'ov, kills their king and captures their capital, Cheshbon.

Yisroel arrive at Kodesh in Midbar Sin, on Rosh Chodesh Nissan of the fortieth year of the Exodus from Egypt. Miriam dies on the tenth (some say on Har Sinai - according to others, near Teveryah). Miriam's well is located in the Sea of Kineres. Moshe sends messengers to the King of Edom, asking for permission to pass through his land, but Edom gathers an army and comes out to meet Yisroel. Yisroel, by Divine command, turn away, in order to avoid fighting them (the time for the battle with Eisov has not yet arrived).

Aharon dies at 123, on Rosh Chodesh Av. He is buried on Hor Ho'hor.

(Yirmiyoh 32:6-27)

The Haftorah revolves around the acquisition of fields, though in reality, this is not the real purpose of the prophecy. It was common for G-d to instruct the prophets to perform seemingly minor and sometimes strange acts, as a sort of parable, a reflection of what was about to happen to Yisroel. And the purpose of the land-deal in this case was to convey to Yirmiyoh, not only Golus Bovel that was about to take place, but also to give him an assurance that they would return - in the not too distant future. The connection with the Parshah is clear, since it too, deals largely with the acquisition of property, and in addition, it is an account of Yisroel's failure to observe the Shmittah, upon which the Torah elaborates in the early part of the Parshah, and for which they were sentenced to Golus Bovel.

The Novi opens with the Divine information that his cousin Chanam'el was on his way to request that he, Yirmiyoh, purchase a field, which he owned in Anosos, Yirmiyoh's town, and that as the closest relative, he had the first right and perhaps even some sort of obligation, to accept. He then goes on to describe how he did indeed purchase the field for which he paid in silver coins, which he meticulously weighed, in the presence of the witnesses who had signed on the document of sale, which in turn, was certified by the Beis-din.

Considering that, at that very moment, the Babylonian forces were besieging Yerusholayim and had already placed ramps up against its walls, such an acquisition seemed quite out of place, and it was only because it was the will of G-d that Yirmiyoh agreed to buy the field (see Mahari Karo 32:8).

Yirmiyoh continues to describe how he then handed the document to his disciple Boruch ben Neriyah (the Rebbe of Ezra) in the presence of Chanam'el and of the witnesses, as well as others who happened to be there. He then instructed him to take the various documents and to put them away in an earthenware vessel, where they would be preserved for a longer period than in a vessel made of other materials. The need to hide the documents served a dual purpose. At one and the same time, it was a sure sign that they were about to go into exile (Rashi), but it was also a sign that, in the foreseeable future, they would return (Redak). And this latter message is reinforced in the following possuk (15), where G-d informs the Novi that, although the Babylonians - referred to here as "the Kasdim" - were about to take over the land, the time would once again come when they, Yisroel, would return to Eretz Yisroel and would purchase houses, fields and vineyards there. And the purpose of Yirmiyoh's purchase, explains the Metzudas Dovid, was to convey that message.

Yirmiyoh, seemingly oblivious to the latter message, then prays to G-d. The Redak explains the gist of his prayer in the following way: 'G-d, who made Heaven and earth, must know that the city is about to fall into the hands of the enemy. Why then, did You order me to purchase the field from my cousin Chanam'el? It must be that Your anger has abated, and, in Your abundant kindness, You have remembered the good deeds of the Ovos. Perhaps the enemy will not capture Yerusholayim after all.' (Perhaps Yirmiyoh treated his prophecy like a dream, that materialises according to its interpretation. Maybe he thought that, if he saw G-d's message in a positive light, that G-d would react accordingly.)

In his prayer, Yirmiyoh describes G-d as "the Great and Mighty G-d", which has connotations of both chessed and gevurah. It is a phrase which the Anshei Kenesses Ha'gedolah included in the first b'rochoh of the Amidah. However, the word "fearful" is missing, although it appears in the Torah (Devorim 10:17). "The gentiles are dancing in the Holy part of the Beis-Ha'mikdosh. Where is G-d's fearfulness?" Rashi explains (from the Gemoro in Yumo).

And the Haftorah ends with G-d's response to Yirmiyoh's prayer. "You are right. I do indeed know about the Heaven and the earth that I created, and nothing is hidden from Me. Yerusholayim will fall to the Babylonians, but, you will return. That is why I told you to purchase the field" (Redak).

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