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Vol. 24 No. 29
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 land that the purchaser is buying, 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 pasuk ("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 allow him 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 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 Sh'mitah-year. It is what Rashi means when he writes at the beginning of the Parshah, commenting on the pasuk (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 pasuk, or as to why he compares the Sh'mitah to Shabbos Bereishis.
What Rashi is telling us here, is that the objective of the land lying fallow in the Sh'mitah-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!
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Links - Be'har and Emor
The "Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos" explains how all the previous Parshiyos in Va'yikro were said in the Ohel Mo'ed (Mishkan), because they were connected to the Mishkan - the Korbonos, Metzoro'im and other te'mei'im, the Kohanim etc. But the connection between the Parshiyos of Be'har and Bechukosai to the rest of Va'yikro, is not so clear. True, they do contain the dinim of Erchin and Charomin, and the blowing of the Shofar in the Yovel year, a mitzvah performed by the Kohanim, and that partially justifies their inclusion in Vayikro,. otherwise known as "Toras Kohanim". Their main thrust however, is that of Sh'mitah and Yovel, and connected topics, all of which do not really belong to the Ohel Mo'ed. Therefore the Torah tells us that quite appropriately, Be'har and Bechukosai were said, not in the Ohel Mo'ed, but at Har Sinai.
This means that these two Parshiyos actually preceded the rest of Sefer Vayikro chronologically, as the Ibn Ezra points out, since Har Sinai preceded the Ohel Mo'ed.
The Ba'al Ha'turim links Behar to Emor in two ways:
1. Emor concludes with the episode of the man who specified G-d's Holy Name and cursed it.
At Har Sinai, Chazal tell us, the whole world shook when the third commandment of not swearing by G-d's Holy Name was said. (This la'av is the most stringent of all the ordinary la'avin.) This man, the son of Sh'lomis bas Divri, it would appear, was not affected by the world's shaking.
2. The Gemoro in Kidushin (71a) informs us that the sages would teach the pronunciation of G-d's Holy four-letter Name to their talmidim once every seven years. There are numerous combinations of vowels which enable the Name of G-d to be read in dozens of different ways. (The punctuation in our Chumoshim and Siddurim is merely a copy of the Name of Adnus - which is the "Kri" of G-d's Name. But the true punctuation is unkown to us.)
From here we can learn the extent of respect that one needs to show for the Name of G-d, and which was blatantly lacking from the son of Sh'lomis bas Divri.
This is hinted in the proximity of his death penalty to the seven-year-cycle of Sh'mitah.
Reflecting on the previous two explanations, we can perhaps add that one must show respect for a King by treating his name respectfully.
Imagine then, how much respect is due to the Name of the King of Kings!
The son of Sh'lomis bas Divri was present at Har Sinai when G-d revealed His Majesty in "all its glory". Yet he was still capable of insulting G-d's Holy Name. He certainly deserved the death-penalty.
The Torah was given on Har Sinai, to the exclusion of many taller mountaians, who claimed the distinction. This teaches us that, just as water always flows to the lowest location, so too does Torah, which is compared to water, find its way to those who are humble. That explains why Chazal say "Keep an eye on the poor, because it is from them that Torah will emanate".
The essence of humility is to acknowledge the greatness of G-d and to render oneself subservient to Him. That lesson can also be drawn from Sh'mitah, where G-d becomes the Universal land-owner, and we His serfs (see main article).
The above midah was clearly lacking in Shlomis bas Divri's son, who perceived G-d's greatness at Har Sinai, but remained, evidently, unimpressed. (See R. Bachye, beginning of Be'har) Presumably, he had difficulty in discarding the conceit that he inherited from his Egyptian father. And that would explain why the Torah refers to him as "the son of the Egyptian", since the Egyptians are termed "conceited" (see the last Rashi in Va'yeishev).
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