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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 25, v. 2: "V'shovsoh ho'oretz Shabbos laShem" - And the land shall rest a Sabbatical to Hashem - The Toras Kohanim 1:2 equates the resting of the land on the "shmitoh" year to the resting on Shabbos, where the verse also says "Shabbos laShem" (Shmos 20:10). We can understand this by creating the following equation: Shabbos is to Yom Tov as "shmitoh" is to "yoveil." Just as Shabbos comes about without our intervention as per the gemara Beitzoh 17a, "Do the bnei Yisroel sanctify Shabbos? Shabbos is holy and self-standing," so too, "shmitoh" comes on the 7th year without our involvement.

However, Yom Tov depends totally upon sanctification by the courts. They establish the beginning of each month, which in turn affects when Yom Tov takes place. Their control is so potent that even if they intentionally decide to establish the new month contrary to calculations (Rabbi Saadioh Gaon and Rabbeinu Chanan'eil) and lunar sightings (Rambam), their decisions are still final and binding, even if in the Celestial spheres it is decided otherwise. This is why we make the blessing, "M'ka'deish haShabbos v'Yisroel v'hazmanim." We do not say "m'da'deish Yisroel" before mentioning Shabbos because Shabbos needs no intervention from us to take place (gemara ibid.). Similarly, "shmitoh" differs from "yoveil." "Shmitoh's" sanctity and laws automatically come upon us without human involvement, and that is why it is called "Shabbos laShem." However, "yoveil" is like Yom Tov in that it depends upon the actions of people. Three things must take place before "yoveil" is in force. They are the blowing of a shofar, the emancipation of slaves, and the return of inheritance properties (Rambam hilchos shmitoh v'yovlos 10:13). This is why verse 20 says, "v'kidashTEM es shnas hachamishim shonoh," - YOU shall sanctify the 50th year. This is also shown in verse 12, "yoveil hee shnas hachamishim shonoh t'h'yeh LOCHEM." We find a similar term "y'h'yeh LOCHEM" by Yom Tov (Vayikroh 23:7), indicating that it is in the hands of the courts to usher in Yom Tov and "yoveil."

Conceptually this difference between "shmitoh" and "yoveil" can be understood as follows: "Shmitoh" is a mitzvoh that is similar in theme to Shabbos. Both testify that Hashem created the world and is its owner. We therefore refrain from creative work on Shabbos and from agricultural pursuits during the "shmitoh" year. We loosen our grip as owners and masters over the world. "Yoveil" is reminiscent of the exodus from Egypt, a Yom Tov. We were freed from oppressive slavery, and likewise on Yom Kippur of the "yoveil" year we free our slaves. (Meshech Chochmoh)

Ch. 25, v. 8: "V'sofarto" - And you shall count - Tosfos on the gemara M'nochos 65b d.h. "usfartem" asks why the court makes a blessing before counting the 49 years towards "yoveil" and we also make a blessing before counting the days of the "omer," but a woman who is calculating her "clean days" does not make a blessing. He answers that in the other 2 cases the counting will clearly take place to its completion, but a woman is not assured that her counting will be uninterrupted, as the "zivoh" flow might again begin. On the gemara K'subos 72a d.h. "v'sofroh" Tosfos says that same thing, but adds that since she cannot make a blessing she also doesn't count the days.

This requires clarification. Tosfos offers an understandable explanation for not making a blessing, as the count may not come to a successful completion, but why not count without a blessing, (and this is the position of some halachic authorities) as there would not be the mention of Hashem's Name in vain, but there would be the fulfillment of the mitzvoh of counting? The Chinuch in mitzvoh #330 raises the question of why no verbal counting and answers that we have no logical explanation, but we do have the oral transmission from generation to generation that there is no verbal counting. He concludes by saying that "v'sofroh" requires that she take note of her not flowing and that she should mentally count the days.

Ch. 25, v. 8: "V'sofarto l'cho" - And you shall count for yourself - Tosfos RI"d asks, "Why doesn't each person count the years towards "yoveil" just as we do the days of "s'firas ho'omer?" He answers that the singular form, "v'sofarto l'cho" indicates that the responsibility lies on one only, in this case the court. By "s'firas ho'omer" the verse says, "usfartem lochem" in the plural form. Therefore it is incumbent upon all of the bnei Yisroel.

Ch. 25, v. 21: "V'tzivisi es birchosi" - And I will command My blessing - On the eve of a "shmitoh" year a farmer came to Rabbi Yoseif Chaim Sonnenfeld, imploring and begging him to give his approval to leniencies in working one's fields during the upcoming "shmitoh" year. Rabbi Sonnenfeld stood his ground, simply stating that halachically he found no basis to be lenient. The farmer was extremely distraught at this point. Rabbi Sonnenfeld removed the volume of Yirmiyohu from his bookshelf, opened it to 17:5, and showed the farmer the following: "Orur ha'gever asher yivtach bo'odom umin Hashem yosur libo" - cursed is the man who places his trust in a person and from Hashem he diverts his heart.

Rashi says that this refers to one who relies upon his own human efforts in agricultural pursuits during the "shmitoh" year, "and from Hashem he diverts his heart" means that he does not rely upon the Torah's promise of "v'tzivisi es birchosi."

Perhaps this is alluded to in the change from "ha'gever" earlier in the verse to "bo'odom" later, which we can read as "bo'adomoh," with a Ko'meitz under the final Mem. Thus this word has a dual meaning; he relies upon himself and the "ground" that he works.

Ch. 25, v. 35: "V'chi yomuch ochicho .. v'hechezakto bo" - And if your brother becomes impoverished .. and you shall strengthen him - The verse in T'hilim 41:2 says, "Ashrei maskil el dol b'yom ro'oh y'malteihu Hashem." This can be interpreted as follows: When one gives charity to an impoverished individual he should give it in a manner that the poor recipient should not feel embarrassed by receiving this handout. This is the intention of this verse. "Asherei maskil eldol," - fortunate is the man who acts wisely with a poor man, alleviating him of feeling that he is only a recipient.

The gemara P'sochim 8a states, "One who says, 'This coin is for charity so that the merit of the mitzvoh will sustain my son,' is considered a totally righteous person." When giving charity to the poor man he says, "I am deriving great benefit from giving you this money as it hopefully will remove a negative edict," - "b'yom ro'oh y'malteihu Hashem." This way the poor man feels that by accepting the alms he is reciprocating a benefit to the donour. (Yalkut Sofer)

Perhaps this concept is alluded to in the way the gemara expresses itself. We find the expression "haNOSEIN tzedokoh l'ishoh," and "haNOSEIN tzedokoh l'oni" (gemara Chagigoh 5a). This is the straightforward way of saying "One who gives charity to .." Why does the gemara P'sochim say, "HO'OMEIR," - one who says .." and not "one who gives"? There is an indication here that when giving charity one should verbalize this intention so the recipient will hear it. This might also explain why the gemara considers the donour a "tzadik gomur," - a TOTALLY righteous person. The gemara first lets us know that even though the donour gives with the intention of himself deriving benefit, this is just fine, and he is righteous in his act. Secondly, by verbalizing it so that the recipient will hear it and feel that he if reciprocating a benefit to the donour, thus lifting his spirit, the donour is further elevated to the status of "tzadik gomur."

Ch. 25, v. 36: "Al tikach mei'ito neshech .. v'chei ochicho imoch" - Do not take from him interest .. and your brother may subsist with you - The word "ochicho" - your brother - does not mean your sibling, as the prohibition against usury is not limited to one's blood relatives. Rather it means "your fellow Jew," as we find in other places, such as "laasose l'ochiv" (Dvorim 19:19). However, there is a requirement of "brotherhood," and this is "brotherhood" in fulfilling the mitzvos of the Torah.

On the basis of this the Ramban writes that there is no prohibition to lend money and charge interest to a Jew who is a "mumor l'hachis," a rebellious transgressor, as he has consciously removed himself from this "brotherhood." The Tur Y.D. #159 writes likewise, but bases it on another reason. Our verse ends with the rationale of this prohibition, "v'chei ochicho imoch," - so that your "brother" may SUBSIST with you. Since there is no command to sustain a "mumor l'hachis," one may charge him interest.

A practical difference between these two reasons is if it is permitted to charge interest to a "mossur," one who discloses someone else's secrets to wily dishonest powers, corrupt governments and the like, and cause his financial loss, corporal punishment, etc. He is still "ochicho," as he doesn't have rebellious disregard for the mitzvos of the Torah, but there is no command to sustain him, as halacha dictates that one should not attempt to save his life even when he is in mortal danger, and in given situations one may even kill him, so there is no command of "v'chei." (Shiras haLevi)



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha and Chasidic Insights

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