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

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Vol. 21   No. 32

This issue is sponsored anonymously

Parshas B'har

All About Sh'mitah
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

Relating to the Land

"Speak to the B'nei Yisrael and say to them 'When you come to the land that I am giving to you, the land shall rest a Shabbos for Hashem" (25:2).

The Mitzvos basically teach us how to relate to others. Thus "I am Hashem Your G-d", "Do not have other gods" and "Do not swear falsely" teach us how to relate to G-d

"Honour your father and mother" and "Someone who strikes his father or mother shall die" teach us how to relate to our parents

"Honour a sage" to our teachers.

"Do not curse a king" to a king.

"And you shall teach them to your children" teaches us how we should relate to our sons and daughters

"And you shall love your friend like yourself", how to relate towards our fellow-Jew.

"Look after yourself" towards ourselves.

"Six years he shall work" towards our servants.

"And you shall love the Ger towards converts.

T'rumos and Ma'asros teach us how to relate towards Kohanim and Levi'im.

"Ki Yikarei kan tzipor", 'Oso ve'es b'no' and 'tza'ar baalei-Chayim' our relationship towards animals.

Similarly, the Torah contains many Dinim that teach us how to relate towards a wife, a laborer and a debtor.

What this Parshah teaches us is the reverence with which we must treat Eretz Yisrael, which is blessed with a special sanctity.


The Shabbos & Sh'mitah

" a Shabbos for Hashem" (Ibid.).

Perhaps you will think that the purpose of the Sh'mitah year is to give the land a chance to rest one year, so that it will yield a better harvest in the following year. Meanwhile you will be able to work on another field, which will rest next year when you gather the crops of the first field.

That is why, the Oznayim la'Torah explains, the Torah refers to the Sh'mitah as 'a Shabbos for Hashem', to teach us that the purpose of the Sh'mitah is to acknowledge G-d's mastery over the land. The only way that this can be achieved if all the lands in the entire land rest simultaneously - in the same way as everybody rests on Shabbos to demonstrate that G-d created the world in six days.


Six Consecutive Years' Produce

"Six years you shall you shall sow your fields and six years shall you prune your vineyards, and you shall gather its produce" (25:3).

The Oznayim la'Torah comments on the Torah's repetition of the words six years ("sheish shonim" [when it could have written "Six years you shall sow your fields and prune your vineyards"]).

And he points to the Mishnah in Shevi'is (Perek 2, Mishnah 1), which, based on the fact that the Tosfos Shevi'is (the addition to the Sh'mitah-year is min ha'Torah) differentiates between cornfield, which may be ploughed until Pesach, and an orchard, which one may plough until Shavu'os (since it is good for the fruit of the sixth year and not in order to improve the crops of the seventh).

Hence the Torah writes here twice "six years", hinting at the two different time-limits regarding ploughing.


The Mishnah there informs us that Raban Gamliel and his Beis-Din negated both times, and that in fact, one is permitted to plough up until Rosh Hashanah of the Sh'mitah. That he did after after the Churban of the Beis-Hamikdash, when Tosfos Shevi'is no longer applies.


Ibid. And the seventh year shall be for you a 'Shabbas Shabboson' for the land, a Shabbos for Hashem; your field you shall not sow and your vineyard you shall prune " (25:4).

In former times, fruit-producing fields would be left fallow every other year, thus enabling to produce a bumper crop in the years that they were harvested. The Torah therefore tells us here, that if we adhere to the Dinim of Sh'mitah, then the land will yield its produce for the six consecutive years that follow.


A Double Shabbos

Ibid. (Pasuk 4)

Commenting on the expression "Shabbas Shabboson", the Oznayim la'Torah explains that there are two different kinds of work to do with the land, both of which the Torah forbids in the Sh'mitah year - 1, Work that improves the land (such as plowing, fertilizing, sowing, weeding and pruning. 2. Work that produces the crops that grow in it (such as harvesting grapes and cutting the corn.

Consequently, the Torah now mentions "Shabbas" in connection with the one, and "Shabbason" in connection with the other.

And in Parshas Emor (23:3) the author compares the double expression to that used in connection with Shabbos and Yom Kipur, where work is forbidden even where it is in order to eat - as opposed to Yom-Tov where that is permitted. Here too, one is forbidden to work the land in the Sh'mitah, even if it is in order to eat.


Eating only what the Land
Produces by Itself

"And the Shabbos of the land shall be to eat, for you, your servants and your maidservants, for your (gentile) hired workers and sojourners who dwell with you" (25:6).

Only what the land produces by itself, even as it rests, are you allowed to eat, but not what grow as a result of your efforts (Oznayim la'Torah).


Treating Sh'mitah Produce with Respect

" All the produce shall be for your beheimos (domesticated animals) and your chayos (undomesticated animals) that are in your land to eat" (25:7),

Sh'mitah produce may only be eaten when it has grown to the stage that it is subject to Ma'aser. Hence, says the Oznayim la'Torah, the Torah writes here 'all its produce' (kol tevu'osoh), implying when the produce has fully-grown.

The reason for this ruling is based on the prohibition to spoil the fruits of Sh'mitah (one may not for example, eat vegetables that are normally eaten raw, cooked, or vice-versa), as it is considered denigrating the sanctity of Shevi'is.

The source for this concept lies in the word "to eat" in the current Pasuk), from which Chazal extrapolate "to eat" 'and not to spoil'.

Likewise, the author points out, the Torah the Torah separates the eating of the animals (in Pasuk 7) from the eating of man (in Pasuk 6) - a hint that one should not feed one's animals in the Sh'mitah food that is fit for human consumption, as that too, is considered denigrating the sanctity of Shevi'is.


On the other hand, he points out, the Torah inserts the words "all its produce" in connection with the animals, to teach us that although one may not feed one's animals fresh figs, say, should one's animal make its way to an orchard and help itself to figs from a fig-tree, one is not permitted to stop it, even if its strips the tree of all its fruit.


Sh'mitah Produce must Remain
in Eretz Yisrael


The Torah inserts the word "in your land", says the Oznayim la'Torah, to teach us that it is forbidden to take Sh'mitah produce out of Eretz Yisrael - once again, in order not to denigrate its sanctity.

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