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Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 16:19 - 17:14

MAY 7-8, 2010 24 IYAR 5770
Day 39 of the Omer

Rosh Hodesh Sivan will be celebrated on Friday, May 14.


"The land shall not be sold in perpetuity for the land is Mine."

Our perashah discusses Shemitah and Yobel. Shemitah means that once every seven years, the land is left idle for one full year. After seven cycles of Shemitah. the fiftieth year of Yobel arrives. The unique requirement of the Yobel year is the return to their previous owners of all ancestral plots of land that have been sold since the last Yobel. A person should not attach too much permanency to his physical acquisitions. He may enjoy them for years and decades, but, eventually, they will be returned to their rightful ancestral owner.

Rabbi Avraham Pam z"tl would illustrate this concept with the story of a Jew living in a small community who hired a teacher to teach Torah to his children for a year's time. The teacher received room and board in exchange for his services and became a part of the household. A few months went by and the homeowner began a costly, major renovation of his house, which took a number of months to complete. When the project was finished, the homeowner made a hanukat habayit to celebrate. Neighbors and friends were given a tour of the newly remodeled home. The teacher also took part in the tours and accompanied the guests around the house, saying, "Here is where we added a wall. Over there we enlarged the bedroom. Isn't our new kitchen now very spacious and beautiful?"

The homeowner overheard the words of the teacher and became upset. "You are talking like it is your house," he said to the teacher. "Don't you realize that you are only here for a limited period?" The teacher eyed his master and softly replied, "My dear master, you too, are only here on this world for a limited time."

Even if a person owned a piece of land or an estate for close to fifty years, nevertheless, when the Yobel arrives, the land or the house must be returned to its previous ancestral owner. This teaches a person that his true task in life is to prepare for the World to Come by learning Torah and performing misvot. While a person certainly needs a place to live, that and his physical pursuits should not be the purpose of his existence. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah


"Do not take from him interest and increase…and let your brother live with you." (Vayikra 25:36)

How is the phrase "let your brother live with you" connected with not taking interest?

When a person lends money on interest, he profits with every day that passes. Thus, the lender wants every day to be as short as possible so that more days pass and he will earn more money. On the other hand, the borrower prays that each day become longer so that he will have the money for fewer days and have to pay less. Consequently, these two people have a different outlook on time. By giving an interest-free loan, the lender will not pray for a shorter day and the borrower will not pay for a longer day, and thus, "your brother will live together with you" - with the same outlook on time.

Alternatively, the punishment for one who takes interest is extremely severe, to the extent that he will not arise at tehiat hametim - the resurrection. The words "vachay achicha imach" allude to this: We are warned not to take interest so that when tehiat hametim takes place, all Jews will be alive and together again.

In the city of Pozen when Rabbi Akiva Eiger was the Rav, a very wealthy man who often lent at interest passed away. The burial society demanded that the family pay an enormous amount of money for the burial plot, and they became very upset and complained to legal authorities.

The Rabbi was questioned and explained the following to the authorities:

"The Jewish people believe that after the coming of Mashiah, the resurrection will take place. Since we anticipate Mashiah's coming speedily, the deceased will be buried for a very short period of time. Therefore, our fees for burial plots are nominal. Unfortunately, since this man violated the prohibition of lending with interest, he will not arise at tehiat hametim. Thus, he needs a grave for an unlimited period of time. Therefore, the burial society is just in requesting the seemingly large amount of money." (Vedibarta Bam)


"But in the seventh year a Shabbat of solemn rest shall be for the land, a Shabbat unto Hashem." (Vayikra 25:4)

The Midrash suggest that the pasuk in Tehillim (103:20),"Bless Hashem, O' His angels, the strong warriors, who do His bidding, to obey the voice of His word," refers to those who observe the laws of Shemitah. Their strength of character is compared to that of the angels. What is the nature of this strength? What uniqueness is found in the obedience of angels which is similarly reflected in the farmers' compliance to the laws of Shemitah?

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz z"l cites the Talmud in Shabbat 85a which reveals the source of the character strength of the angels. It lies in that angels first "do" and then "listen" - i.e. seek to understand. This attribute was also demonstrated by Klal Yisrael at Mount Sinai when they proclaimed, "We will do and (then) we will listen!" He explains that this is precisely the pillar of strength upon which the faith of the observers of Shemitah rests. If they approach shemitah purely from a rational perspective, their scientific conclusions would not support permitting their fields to remain fallow. Because these shomrei misvot have the ability to act in conformance with Hashem's mandate before they strive to understand, they are able to attain a level of strength and faith comparable to that of the angels.

It is a sign of the greatness of B'nei Yisrael that we are expected to sustain the same level of bitahon (trust) as the angels. He concludes that the approach of na'aseh venishma reflects the true essence of bitahon. Rather than merely representing an intellectual recognition of Hashem's providence, bitahon is primarily the ability to relate directly to Hashem's Omnipotence as a vivid reality.

Rav Yosef Breuer z"l decries the attitude of those who use bitahon as a means of accepting an inevitable fate. This hopeless apathy, which leads to fatalistic despair, is not a product of true bitahon. Bitahon should not serve as the last resort to cope with adversity, a final despairing sign by which one attempts to find solace during difficult situations. Rather, bitahon requires of us complete devotion to Hashem's will and to the fulfillment of His precepts throughout our lives. Bitahon should guide our lives even in times of personal empowerment. In response to our devotion. bitahon becomes the magic strengthening agent which has dried our tears and alleviated our grief throughout our tumultuous history. Bitahon will continue to be the source of courage to raise our heads erect, while we await that day when all mysteries and ambiguities will be clarified. (Peninim on the Torah)


It is customary to study Pirkei Abot (Ethics of the Fathers) during the six weeks between Pesah and Shabuot, one chapter every Shabbat.

"The burial place of Moshe (was created on the sixth day at twilight)" (Abot 5:6)

Regarding the burial place of Moshe, the Torah writes, "And no one knows his burial place to this day" (Debarim 34:6).

The Gemara (Sotah 13b) relates, "The wicked government once sent to the governor of Beit Pe'or, 'Show us where Moshe is buried.' When they stood above, the site appeared to them to be below. When they stood below, it appeared to be above. They divided themselves into two parties; to those who were standing above it appeared below, and to those who were below it appeared above."

Why was the government eager to know where Moshe was buried?

The Gemara can be interpreted as a metaphor for the relationship between the nations of the world and the Jewish people.

Moshe was the one who gave the Torah to the Jewish people, and until this very day it is referred to as Torat Moshe - the Torah of Moshe. It is the spiritual life-source of Klal Yisrael, and throughout the millennia, nations of the world have endeavored to "bury" Moshe - i.e. influence the Jewish people to assimilate and detach themselves from Torat Moshe.

Some have advocated that "the burying of Moshe" can be accomplished through an approach of "standing above" - elevating the Jews to high positions, giving them prestige and honor, so that ultimately they will join the secular society and abandon the teachings of the Torah. When this method failed, others tried "standing below" - pushing the Jews downward. They imposed harsh economic restrictions, anticipating that this would "bury Moshe" - force the Jewish people to assimilate or be physically eradicated. And there have also been advocates of combining the two approaches.

Thank G-d, all efforts have failed and no one has been able to find a way to "bury Moshe" - extinguish the light of Torah from the Jewish people. Jews and Torah are inseparable, and their attachment will be eternally vibrant.

The Mishnah is telling us that the reason they were not able, G-d forbid, to "bury" the Jewish people is that Hashem created us to exist as long as the world is in existence. Therefore, at the outset, He hid the burial place of Moshe from everyone, i.e. no one knows how to, G-d forbid, bury and get rid of the Jewish people. (Vedibarta Bam)

* * * * *

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