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MAY 19-20, 2000 15 IYAR 5760

Pop Quiz: When is it permissible to blow the shofar on Shabbat?

Shmuel Choueka

"In this Yobel year, you shall return each man to his ancestral heritage" (Vayikra 25:13)

The Jubilee year, the Yobel, came every 50 years of the Jewish calendar. Besides having the same status as Shemittah, the Sabbatical year, where no one may plant or plow, there was also an additional law that all lands and fields and houses must return to their original owner. As the Torah puts it, when one sells a field, it is basically a long-term lease until the year of the Yobel. The Rabbis tell us that the Yobel year must have been an amazing sight, to see everyone moving from property to property. Imagine the turmoil, the frenzy and the tumult! The lesson is to teach us that we are only strangers in the land; we are not here for good. Although this law is not applicable today, the concept is just as relevant as before. We tend to think of ourselves as permanent inhabitants of this world. We build and plan to live as if this is the final stop. Yobel should teach us that we are only guests here, hopefully for our full 120 years, but guests nonetheless. With this in mind, we can plan correctly for the final destination by making our time count with Torah and misvot. Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Reuven Semah

"You shall proclaim freedom throughout the land to all its inhabitants" (Vayikra 25:10)

Our perashah speaks of freedom to be proclaimed every 50 years in the land of Israel. All Jewish slaves are freed on the Yobel (Jubilee) year, which comes once every 50 years. Most Americans are familiar with the Liberty Bell in Independence Hall in Pennsylvania. The Ohr Sameah Torah Weekly reveals to us some very interesting facts about this famous bell. The Liberty Bell was originally made to celebrate the 50th anniversary of William Penn's "Charter of Privileges" (1701). The bell was inscribed with our pasuk, quoted above, "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." It was to celebrate the jubilee of Penn's charter. This pasuk was chosen because it refers to Yobel, the Jubilee year. This bell was officially rung on July 8, 1776 to signal the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. The most famous aspect of this bell is that it is cracked! Much effort was made to repair it. It was even melted down and recast, and it cracked again. If you think about it, it's amazing that a famous symbol should be something so imperfect. What's more is that its very imperfection is part of its fame. Sometimes when we look at our lives it's easy to become despondent. There is so much to achieve and we have done so little. More and more, what seemed to be minor imperfections in ourselves now appear to us as major character flaws. Will we ever dominate our negative drives? Will we ever take the wheel of our lives in accordance with the wishes of our Creator? It's easy to despair. Maybe it's not by chance that it should be that a cracked bell "proclaim freedom throughout the land." We're not perfect. All of us have our cracks. But even the most flawed of us have the potential to proclaim freedom, real freedom. Real freedom is when we control our impulses rather than them controlling us. We can achieve this freedom by engraving the words of the Torah in our hearts. The Torah can make an impression even on a heart of iron. If we allow the Torah to lead us, we will proclaim freedom, like a bell, throughout our lives. Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Yaacov Ben-Haim

"The more wealth and property one acquires, the more worry and anxiety he will have" (Pirkei Abot 2:7)

The Hafess Hayim was once approached with a dilemma: The objective reality seems to be that the more a person works, the more he earns. How is this compatible with the idea that everything comes from G-d? The Hafess Hayim answered, "He who earns more money also depletes it more quickly." He then elaborated on his words. Imagine a container of water which holds no more than one hundred liters. If you attach a narrow faucet to it, the flow of water will be slow, and it will take some time for the container to empty. However, if you fix several faucets to the container and open them, the container will empty before you know it. So it is with man and his livelihood. The person who expends a great effort to earn money might have more for a short time, but in the end, everything evens out. The Gemara (Beisah 16a) says, "A person's sustenance is fixed for him at the beginning of the year." It is possible that the person who works harder to earn a living might accumulate more money, and if he works harder yet, he might have enough to invest in real estate, and if he works even harder, he might be able to invest in more and more ventures. But the Sages said specifically that a person's "sustenance" is fixed for him. They did not say that the amount of his money and property is fixed for him. The question is whether the wealthy man will have any enjoyment from all of his riches. It is quite often the one who works the hardest who enjoys his lot the least. As the Mishnah says, "The more property, the more worry." In many instances, we clearly see the truth of the statement, "Better dry bread in tranquility, than a house full of animals slaughtered in antagonism." When the Gemara says that "a person's sustenance is fixed for him," it refers to his quality of life. A person must therefore pray for quality rather than for quantity. Shabbat Shalom.


"You shall proclaim freedom throughout the land to all its inhabitants" (Vayikra 25:10)

This pasuk refers to the misvah of freeing the Jewish slaves at the beginning of Yobel. The Torah, however, does not seem to address only the slaves. The enjoinment quite clearly speaks about all inhabitants. The vast majority of Jews were not slaves! The P'nei Yehoshua suggests the following idea. One who enslaves others is himself a slave. He is subservient to his own egotistical desire to dominate others. This is alluded to by the statement in the Talmud (Kidushin 20a), "One who purchases a Jewish slave in reality acquires a master for himself." He who enslaves others, becomes enslaved himself. Consequently, one who emancipates his slave is, in reality, freeing himself. One must respect the rights of others and not attempt to encroach upon their freedom. One who attempts to control others reflects his own negative self-image. The need to malign others is a desperate attempt to mask one's own inferiority. The need to obtain a feeling of superiority is manifest by those who surround themselves with individuals inferior to themselves. It is truly a sad statement about an individual, if the only way that he can maintain his self-esteem is through the subjection of others who are powerless to defend themselves. The Torah teaches us that true freedom is effected only when all men are free, when the dignity of all people is respected by all, and when the underprivileged are not disdained and violated. (Peninim on the Torah)


"If your brother becomes impoverished and sells part of his possession, his relative who is closest to him shall come and redeem his brother's sale" (Vayikra 25:25)

Why is this law stated in the singular, while the laws stated in the previous verses are in the plural? Often, success and affluence bring great popularity. An affluent person has many friends and associates who enthusiastically greet him and eagerly participate in his celebrations. When the wheel of fortune takes a turn and he is no longer on the giving end, friends and even family suddenly turn down his requests for help, advising him to turn to someone else. The Torah, therefore, speaks in the singular, to stress that when one is in need, everybody should consider it his responsibility to offer help and to see himself as the sole individual capable of coming to his brother's aid. (Vedibarta Bam)


[It is customary to study Pirkei Abot (Ethics of the Fathers) during the six weeks between Pesah and Shabuot, one chapter every Shabbat.] "Whoever desecrates the heavenly Name in secret, punishment will be meted out to him in public" (Pirkei Abot 4:4)

How can one desecrate the Heavenly Name in secret, and what punishment is meted out to him in public? The Gemara (Sotah 17a) says that Hashem divided His Name "yud-hei" between the man and the woman. The Hebrew word for man is "ish," which has a yud in the middle, and the Hebrew word for woman is "ishah," which has a hei at the end. When a man and a woman unite in marriage and they live happily together, they merit to have His name with them. Otherwise, He departs and they each are only "esh" - "fire" - and destroy themselves and their married life. Thus, when there is no shalom bayit - harmony - in the marriage, and the husband and wife quarrel, in a sense they are desecrating the Name of Hashem, which came together through their union, and everything they set out to build is consumed by the fire of mahloket - dispute. The worst thing a husband and wife can do is to fight and argue in the presence of their children, and it is unfortunate even if the children should be aware of their parents' arguments and lack of unity. They are the ones who suffer the most from the parents' quarreling, and the atmosphere of hostility has a devastating effect on them. Thus, the punishment meted out in public to the parents who desecrate the Name of Hashem in the privacy of their home, is everybody's seeing that something is wrong with their children. (Vedibarta Bam)

Answer to Pop Quiz: When Yom Kippur of the Yobel year falls on Shabbat.

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