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

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Vol. 23   No. 33

This issue is sponsored
In honour of
R' Michoel Cohen n"y

Parshas B'har

Sh'mitah & Yovel
(Adapted from the Torah Temimh)

"And you shall sanctify the fiftieth year. And announce freedom in the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be Yovel for you, and you shall return, each man to his heritage and each man to his family" (25:10).


Based on the words "freedom for all its inhabitants", the Gemara in Erchin (32b) learns that Yovel only applies when all its inhabitants are living in Eretz Yisrael. This in turn, has two implications: 1) that all twelve tribes occupy the land in its entirety, and 2) that everybody is living on his ancestral plot of land. Here we have two reasons as to why, min ha'Torah, Yovel does not apply nowadays - since not only are most tribes still in Galus, but even those of us who have returned are not living on the plot of land designated to each family by Yehoshua bin Nun. When Mashi'ach comes, both of these issues will need to be rectified before Yovel will be reinstated.

As a matter of fact, Yovel has not been in effect for over two and a half thousand years - since Reuven, Gad and half of Menasheh were taken into exile by Sancheriv in the days of Chizkiyahu ha'Melech.

The above is based on the B'raysa in Erchin, which we cited above, and like which the Rambam Paskens. Tosfos in Gitin however (on Daf 36a), citing Rabeinu Tam, disagree with this ruling; as they maintain that they kept Yovel during the era of the second Beis ha'Mikdash, even though the Ten Tribes had not returned from Galus.


As far as Sh'mitah is concerned, most Poskim agree that, when the Torah introduces the Yovel year with the words "And you shall count seven lots of seven years", it is actually comparing Sh'mitah to Yovel, in which case, as long as Yovel does not apply, Sh'mitah does not apply either. Consequently, the accepted fact that Sh'mitah applies nowadays refers to Sh'mittah de'Rabbanan, though the Chachamim did not institute Yovel mi'de'Rabbanan.

The Rambam does not state his opinion with regard to Sh'mitah nowadays. However, the Kesef Mishnah and others deduce from his words that in fact, it is d'Oraysa. Refer to the Torah Temimah (note 55) who disagrees with their interpretation of the Rambam, and who maintains that according to the Rambam too, Sh'mitah nowadays is mi'de'Rabbanan.


All the Dinim pertaining to tilling the land in the Sh'mitah-year, pertain also to the Yovel. However in addition, the Torah adds three Dinim that apply to Yovel exclusively: 1) blowing the Shofar on Yom Kipur of the Yovel, 2) setting free all Jewish servants and 3) the reverting of land to its original owner - the latter two took place following the former. The prohibition of tilling the land in the Yovel are dependent upon the above three Dinim that are peculiar to the Yovel - if, for whatever reason, they were not kept, one may till the land throughout the Yovel year.

In fact, the Tana'im in Rosh Hashanah (Daf 9b) argue as to which of the three Dinim is crucial in this regard. The Rambam Paskens that all three are. Consequently, if the Shofar was not blown on Yom Kipur, there are no Jewish servants to be set free, or no land to be returned, the Sh'mitah laws pertaining to the land will not apply and the fruit will not be Hefker (Refer to Torah Temimah, note 56).

* * *

Living in Eretz Yisrael

"I am Hashem your G-d who took you out of the Land of Egypt to give you the land of Cana'an, in order to be for you a G-d" (25:38).


This Pasuk reiterates what the Torah already taught us twice in Sh'mos - that Yisrael left Egypt with the express intention of going to Eretz Cana'an (as it was then called) - as G-d had promised the Avos.

The Gemara in Kesubos (110b), derives from the last words in the current Pasuk that, not only is it a Mitzvah to live in Eretz Yisrael, but that, faced with the choice of living in Eretz Yisrael in a town that is inhabited by gentiles or in Chutz la'Aretz in a town inhabited by one's fellow-Jews, one should opt for the former. The reason for this seemingly strange ruling is because living in Eretz Yisrael places one under the jurisdiction of G-d who personally supervises Eretz Yisrael, as the Torah clearly states in Eikev (11:12), when it describes Eretz Yisrael as "The land over which Hashem watches from the beginning of the year to the end".

This being the case, leaving the land entails leaving the jurisdiction of G-d and entering that of the celestial superpowers, who govern all the other nations. Hence Chazal said that 'Someone who lives in Chutz la'Aretz is considered as if he does not have a G-d'.


Before citing the Gemara in Kesubos, the Rambam (in Hilchos Melachim, 5:12) rules (in Halachah 9) that one is only permitted to leave Eretz Yisrael for one of the following four reasons: 1) To study Torah, 2) To find a wife, 3) to rescue one's property or one's friend from the hands of a gentile, or 4) for matters related to Parnasah. In all these cases however, he writes that after achieving the above-mentioned goals, one is obligated to return to Eretz Yisrael. Moving permanently from Eretz Yisrael he permits only in cases of extreme famine, and even then he frowns upon those who do - citing Machlon and Chilyon who left Eretz Yisrael on account of famine - and look what happened to them!


The Gemara there (on Daf 112a) describes how one sage would kiss the archway of the border town Acco upon entering it whilst another would roll in its dust, in fulfillment of the Pasuk in Tehilim (102:15) "For your servants cherished her stones and favoured her dust".

Rashi, commenting on the above Pasuk in Tehilim, cites a Medrash that when King Yechonyah and his entourage went into exile to Bavel, they took with them some dust of Eretz Yisrael, with which they built a Shul.


The Gemara there (on 111a) also says that if someone is buried in Eretz Yisrael it is as if he was buried underneath the Mizbe'ach (he attains some degree of atonement), though this is no comparison to somebody who lives in Eretz Yisrael, who, the Gemara explains, lives without sin! It also states that a person who walks four Amos in Eretz Yisrael is assured of a place in Olam ha'Ba. Although these statements would appear to be connected with the sanctity of the land and the fact that the Shechinah dwells there¸ they nevertheless beg explanation. (See Maharsha there DH 'Kol ha'Dar' & Ke'ilu Kavur').


Finally, the Gemara there writes that those who are buried in Eretz Yisrael will be spared the painful experience of rolling there underground when Techi'as ha'Meisim takes place.


The dead will come back to life in the clothes in which they were buried.

* * *

Techi'as ha'Meisim

The Gemara in Kesubos (Daf 110b) describes some of the wonders that we can look forward to when the dead come back to life - an experience which only those who study Torah (and the women who encourage them) will merit:

Wheat will sprout and grow like date-palms. To circumvent the problem of harvesting it, G-d will cause a wind to harvest it in the form of flour, which people will collect (reminiscent of the Manna in the desert) and take home to sustain their families.

The wheat kernels will be the size of the two kidneys of a large ox.

Trees will also produce loaves of bread on a daily basis.

People will drive out into the field with a wagon or a ship and they will return with a grape, which they will place in a corner of the house. That grape will contain a measure of thirty Sa'ah of wine, which they will squeeze out with their hands without any effort.

* * *

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