by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS B'HAR 5771 BS"D
Ch. 25, v. 2: "V'shovsoh ho'oretz" - And the land will rest - Hashem commands that the farmer share a hefty amount of his crops with numerous other people year after year. This is quite a challenge for the farmer. Hashem therefore gave the mitzvoh of Shmitoh, and once in 50 years the mitzvoh of Yoveil, which comes on the heels of Shmitoh so that even the wealthy land owner realizes that he must rely totally on Hashem for his sustenance. He then feels all the more so the poor man who has no land to grow crops upon is in need and will willingly part with some of his produce. (Tzror Hamor)
Ch. 25, v. 2,3,4: "V'shovsoh ho'oretz Shabbos laShem, Sheish shonim tizra, Uvashonoh hashviis Shabbas Shabboson" - And the land will rest a Shabbos for Hashem, Six years will you sow, And on the seventh year a total Shabbos - The four last words of verse 2 seem to be superfluous. The Ponim Yofos explains that the blessing of "V'hoysoh lochem l'ochloh" cannot take place during the first six years unless one resolves at the beginning of the seven year cycle to heed the laws of "shmitoh." This is the intention of "V'shovsoh ho'oretz Shabbos laShem."
Ch. 25, v. 4: "Uvashonoh hashviis Shabbas Shabboson" - And on the seventh year a total Shabbos - This and the following verse enumerate four negative commandments regarding farming the land. The verse in T'hilim 103:20 says, "Giborei ko'ach o'sei d'voro lishmo'a b'kol d'voro." The medrash in one of its interpretations says that this refers to "shomrei shviis," those who keep the laws of "shmitoh." They ar ecalled "giborim" because other mitzvos require restraint for a day, a week, a month, while "shmitoh" requires restraint from agricultural pursuits for a whole year. The medrash goes on the find a common terminology to connect the verse to "shmitoh." In T'hilim it says "dvoro," and in Dvorim 15:2 it says, "V'zeh D'VAR hashmitoh."
O'SEI indicates "doing" and keeping "shmitoh" is totally a matter of restraining, so how does "shmitoh" connect with "O'SEI d'voro?" The gemara B.B. 54b says that there were times when the king would expropriate all fields and when agricultural taxes were paid, the (original) owner of the field would be allowed to take its produce, and if not, not. It would then seem logical that when the "shmitoh" year would come that the landowners should not pay their taxes. When one does not pay the annual tax, in affect, the field would not be theirs for its produce. Those who wanted to fulfill the mitzvoh of "shmitoh" would pay the tax and thus bring themselves into a situation where the field was theirs on the "shmitoh" year, and still not plow, plant, etc. Their fulfillment of the mitzvoh would begin with a positive act, to pay the tax. This is "O'SEI d'voro." (Mahar"il Diskin)
In the same vein, when Rabbi Aharon of Belz came to Eretz Yisroel and planned to settle in Tel Aviv, he asked the people who were to purchase his home to make sure that it had a yard. When asked why this was of importance, he answered that if he had a yard where it was possible to plant, he would be able to refrain from planting on the "shmitoh" year.
Ch. 25, v. 18: "Vaasi'sem es chukosai …… vishavtem al ho'oretz lo'vetach" - And you shall do My ststutes …… and you will reside on the land securely - Rashi says that the sin of not keeping "shmitoh" (verse 4) brings in its wake the ousting of the bnei Yisroel from their land.
The Sfas Emes explains that this refers back to the just mentioned law of Yoveil in verse 13, that heritage land should be returned gratis. We are well acquainted with numerous revolutions in countries where the rich become richer and the poor become poorer. The situation becomes untenable and revolution is the result. Yoveil obviates this. The main "commodity" that brings wealth is real estate. During the course of 49 years people are forced to sell their heritage lands. Since once every 50 years these properties go back to their original families, it creates a somewhat level "playing field," where we do not have extremely rich and extremely poor. It is the keeping of this "yoveil" law which guarantees "vishavtem al ho'oretz lo'vetach."
Ch. 25, v. 35: "V'chi yomuch ochicho …… v'hechezakto vo" - And when your brother will become destitute …… and you shall strengthen him - The medrash comments on these words, that this is the fulfillment of, "Ashrei maskil el dol" (T'hilim 41:2). Coming on the heels of the laws of "shmitoh" and "yoveil," where one leaves his fields fallow and must place his trust in Hashem to provide for his needs comes our verse. The anticipated donour might well say to the petitioner that he should not go around collecting alms, but rather, place his trust in Hashem to provide him all his needs, just as the whole nation does when "shmitoh" and "yoveil" come. This is the intention of the medrash, which applies the above-mentioned verse in T'hilim. Don't respond to the poor man with an approach of HIS trusting in Hashem. Rather, when it comes to a poor person, be a "maskil," one who uses his wits to explain everything. Cold logic has it that a person who is destitute should receive donations rather than relying on Hashem's raining down loaves of bread. (K'hilas Yitzchok)
Ch. 25, v. 36: "Al tikach mei'ito neshech …… v'chai ochicho imoch" - Do not take from him interest …… and your brother will live with you - The gemara and medrash say that both the lender and the borrower with interest will not be resurrected at the time of "t'chias ha'meisim." This is the intention of the last words of our verse. Do not take interest so that your brother the borrower and you the lender should merit to be alive by "t'chias ha'meisim." (Yalkut Ho'urim)
Ch. 25, v. 36: "Al tikach mei'ito neshech …… v'chai ochicho imoch" - Do not take from him interest …… and your brother will live with you - If one were to transgress the prohibition of taking interest on a loan the lender wants the days to pass quickly, as each day adds accrued interest. He would therefore feel that every day that passes is like a year in his great eagerness to have time pass quickly. Conversely, the borrower, who also realizes that every passing day brings in its wake greater debt, wishes that each passing year would be only a day. However, when there is no interest charged the day and the year of the lender are equal to the day and the year of the borrower. This is "v'chai ochicho imoch." Your brother will feel the passing of time on an equal footing as you. (Holy Alshich)
Ch. 25, v. 37: "Es kas'p'cho lo si'tein lo b'neshech" - Your money shall you not give him for interest - Even if you give the needy person a loan, do not give it with a verbal "bite." Don't say to him that if he weren't so lazy, unmotivated, etc., he would not be in this deplorable situation. (M'leches Mach'she'ves)
Ch. 26, v. 9: "Ufonisi a'leichem" - And I will turn My face to you - Rashi here and in 26:17, "V'nosati fonai bochem," by the admonitions, says that "ufonisi" means that I will TURN away from all My other activities to bestow blessings upon you, and similarly, in reverse, when the bnei Yisroel ch"v don't follow Hashem's dictates, He will likewise TURn from His other activities to inflict punishment.
The Beis Yisroel of Gur quoted his great-grandfather, the Chidushei hoRi"m, hwo explained the blessing of our verse to mean that Hashem will bestow PNAI, free time, breathing space, to a person who behaves properly. The Beis Yisroel asked that it seems that this insight cannot carry through by the admonition of 26:17 cited above. He answered that there too, it means free time. However, for the person who heeds Hashem's laws free time becomes a blessing, as it will surely be used wisely and not squandered. For the person who transgresses the Torah free time can be the greatest curse.
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