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MAY 16-17, 2003 15 IYAR 5763

Lag Ba'Omer will be celebrated on Tuesday, May 20.

Pop Quiz: Where do the laws of shemitah apply?


"If a man shall sell a residence house in a walled city" (Vayikra 25:29)

Our perashah discusses the laws of the sale of land and houses in the land of Israel. When the Israelites first entered the land under the leadership of Yehoshua, the land was divided according to the tribes and the families. Each family received an ancestral field in the land. The land and houses on the land remained with the family always. Even if sold, it would revert back to the family at the Jubilee year (yobel ) which occurred every fifty years. If a house was part of a walled city, the house remained with the buyer unless it was bought back within one year.

The Sages state that the special status of a house in a walled city is valid only if the walls of the city were erected before the city was populated, and not if the wall was built afterwards. The reason is, if the people settled in the town prior to building the wall, then the security and safety provided by those walls were not their prime consideration in taking up residence in that town. If the walls came first then we can assume that this was a primary consideration for their moving into that town.

Rabbi R. Pelcovitz adds, the Talmud (Pesahim 87a) quotes a verse in Shir Hashirim (8:10) ani homah - I am a wall." This is referring to the Torah. Just as a wall protects the inhabitants of a city, so too the Torah protects the Jewish character of a community. When Ya'akob Abinu went down to Egypt he sent his son Yehudah first. His mission was to establish a place for Torah study, before they even left the land of Canaan to take residence in Goshen in Egypt. If the children of Ya'akob were to come to Egypt, and only later establish a place of Torah study, it would not be considered "a walled city."

This principle of putting first things first, is a crucial point when discussing our children's education. Learning and living Torah during one's childhood must precede the establishment of a person's way of life. In this manner we create the character of a youngster. By doing so, we build a wall of Torah before the individual has established his lifestyle. This will insure that his growth into adulthood is secure and safe. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"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 Shmuel Choueka


"God spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai...the land shall observe a Shabbat rest for G-d...the seventh year shall be a complete rest for the land" (Vayikra 25:1-4)

What is the connection between Shemitah and Mount Sinai?

Shemitah is proof that the Torah was given to the Jewish people by Hashem. When the Torah relates the laws of Shemitah, it also guarantees that although in the seventh year the fields will be idle, the crop of the sixth year will be blessed so that it will produce enough for three years: the sixth, seventh and eighth years.

Such a guarantee could only be given by Hashem. Thus, the Torah's inclusion of the laws of Shemitah, which were certainly given by Hashem, proves that the Torah was given by Hashem on Mount Sinai.

In addition, a human being knows that every year the harvest of the fields becomes weaker, so that the first year after Shemitah it would yield the most fruit, and on the sixth year it would yield the least. A human being would not guarantee that which defied the laws of nature. Only Hashem, Who transcends and controls nature, can promise something that is not in accordance with its laws. This, then, is proof that the Torah was given to us from Hashem on Mount Sinai. (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.

"Run to perform even an easy misvah, and flee from transgression" (Abot 4:2)

What is a misvah kallah - easy misvah - and what lesson should be learned from it?

The Gemara (Abodah Zarah 3a) says that the gentiles challenged Hashem to give them the Torah to see if they would fulfill the precepts. Hashem said to them, "I have a misvah kallah - easy misvah - called succah (it is an easy misvah since it does not invoke any expense, as the sechach needed to cover the succah is available in the fields); let us see if you can do it." They all went and immediately built succot, but they abandoned them when the sun became too hot.

The succah is referred to as a dirat arai - temporary dwelling place - and it has a roof through which one can see the stars. A person is required to leave his permanent abode and move into a succah to impress upon him that our real security is provided by Hashem in heaven. Without Him, our strong "fortresses" with their bars and gates are to no avail.

Thus, Ben Azzai's message is that one should run with alacrity and joy to fulfill the misvah of succah and live throughout the year with the message and lesson it imparts. Once a person realizes his dependence on Hashem and that without Him he is unable to succeed, then he will definitely not commit a transgression. (Vedibarta Bam)


Question: Why do we read "Mizmor l'David Hashem ro'ee lo ehsar" (Tehillim 23) in Arbit of Shabbat?

Answer: (1) It mentions the World to Come ("v'shabti b'bet Hasem l'orech yamim"). Shabbat is a taste of that world.

(2) The Sages placed a psalm in the prayers of Shabbat which strengthens our faith in G-d ("Even if I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear not, for You are with me..."). Similarly, they placed such psalms prior to Baruch She'amar in Shaharit. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)


"You shall sound the shofar throughout all your land." (Vayikra 25:9)

Every fifty years, on the year of the yobel, all slave-owners were obligated to let their Jewish slaves go free. In the yobel year, there is a misvah to blow the shofar. The purpose of this was to remind the master that he wasn't the only one freeing his slaves, but rather all owners of slaves were also releasing their slaves at the same time. This knowledge would make it easier for him to release his own slaves.

One is more able to cope with hardships when he knows that he is not the only one suffering through it. By keeping in mind that every person has his own share of problems, one can approach his own situations in a more positive frame of mind.

Question: Do you ever feel singled out when everything seems to be going wrong? When you're having a "bad day," are you able to see anyone else's problems and offer them support?


This week's haftarah: Yirmiyahu 32:6-27.

Our perashah discusses the sale and redemption of lands, and this haftarah tells of Hashem's command to Yirmiyahu, the prophet, to purchase a plot of land prior to the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem. The haftarah also discusses the Babylonian exile which lasted 70 years. Our Sages teach that the exile lasted 70 years to atone for the 70

Answer to Pop Quiz: In Israel.

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