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Torah Attitude: Parashas Behar-Bechukosai: Shabbos, Shemitah and the counting of the Omer

Summary

Observing Shabbos both strengthens our belief that G'd created the world and our trust that He continuously looks after our needs. Every Shabbos observer joins ranks with our ancestors who were sustained by the Heavenly Manna. "Behold, to the first generation my Holy One gave a proof, by giving a double portion of food on the sixth day." There is a special connection between the Omer of Manna that our ancestors received daily during their 40 years sojourn in the wilderness, and the Omer offering that was brought in the Temple on the second day of Pesach. Jeremiah took out the jar with an Omer of Manna that G'd had instructed Moses to put away in the sanctuary for safekeeping. Every year as we count Omer and prepare for our personal acceptance of the Torah on Shavuous, we connect with the lesson of the Omer of Manna. The Torah commands us to work the land of Israel for six years and to elevate the seventh year to a higher spiritual level. G'd created the world in the course of six days that culminated with Shabbos, when everything was in place and co-existed in perfect harmony. Every Shabbos we receive an additional soul that enables us to rise to the special holiness of Shabbos. The Kabbalists explain that Shabbos and the Shemitah year correspond to the World to Come and the Jubilee year corresponds to the time of resurrection when everything will be restored in perfect harmony and beauty. The seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuous, when we count for 49 days, resemble the 49 years of the seven Shemitah cycles. We must strive to elevate ourselves, each one on our personal level, so that when Shavuous arrives we will be ready to accept the Torah on a higher level.

Closed on Shabbos

Last week we discussed how observing Shabbos both strengthens our belief that G'd created the world and our trust that He continuously looks after our needs. In earlier times, people would often work just to provide them with their daily needs. A day without work would mean that they did not have their basic needs for that day for their family. Under such conditions, we can well imagine how strong their trust in G'd was, as they refrained from going to work on Shabbos. When the Jewish immigrants came to North America, in the beginning of the twentieth century, anyone who persisted and observed Shabbos would in most cases lose their job and had to look for a new job every week for quite a while. Even nowadays, it can be a real challenge to close one's store or business on Shabbos, and allow one's competitor to benefit from the business opportunities that are available on Shabbos.

Manna

Every Shabbos observer joins ranks with our ancestors who were sustained by the Heavenly Manna. Every day they were provided with a measure of Manna, as it says (Shemos 16:15-16): "And Moses said to them, 'This is the food that G'd has given you to eat Gather from it, every man according to what he eats, an omer per person." In order to teach them to put their trust in G'd and rely on Him to provide them with their daily needs, they were commanded (Shemos 16:19): "No man may leave over from it till morning." Only Shabbos was different, for on Shabbos no manna fell. Instead, a double portion fell on Friday (see Shemos 16:22-26).

Double portion of Friday

In many families they sing Ki Eshmerah Shabbos at the Shabbos lunch meal. It starts off with a statement "When I watch [the laws of] Shabbos, G'd will watch me." In the second stanza it says, "Behold, to the first generation my Holy One gave a proof, by giving a double portion of food on the sixth day. So He shall double my sustenance every sixth day." We live in a time when G'd hides Himself and we do not in general see any direct consequences from our observance of the Torah commandments or our failure to observe them. But if we focus, we often see G'd's benevolent hand behind what is going on. When I was young, my late father would regularly go on business trips, leaving Sunday afternoon to return only Thursday night. I remember that he told me that often he would see more success on Friday than he had experienced during his travels throughout the week. Special connection between the Omers

There is a special connection between the Omer of Manna that our ancestors received daily during their 40 years sojourn in the wilderness, and the Omer offering that was brought in the Temple on the second day of Pesach. The Midrash Rabbah (Vayikra 28:3) relates G'd's message to the Jewish people: "When I provided you with the Manna I provided each of you with an Omer, now when you bring your offering to Me I do not expect of you more than one Omer for all of you." Throughout the 49 days between Pesach and Shavuous when we count the Omer we remind ourselves of the Omer of Manna that our ancestors received daily in the wilderness. For the truth is that we are no less in the Hands of G'd than our ancestors. The only difference is that G'd dealt with our ancestors openly through daily miracles as the Manna fell down from heaven, whereas He deals with us hidden behind the laws of nature.

Jeremiah and the jar of Manna

Rashi (Shemos 16:32) quotes from the Mechilta (ibid) that the Prophet Jeremiah chastised his generation that they did not spend time for serious Torah study. They answered him that they needed the time to provide for their families. In response, Jeremiah took out the jar with an Omer of Manna that G'd had instructed Moses to put away in the sanctuary for safekeeping (see Shemos 16:32-34). "Look here", said Jeremiah, "this is what G'd provided for your ancestors. G'd has many ways to look after you and provide you with your needs."

Trust in G'd

Every year as we prepare for our personal acceptance of the Torah on Shavuous, we connect with the lesson of the Omer of Manna when we count Omer. For, as the Mechilta (ibid) says, the Torah was only given to the Jewish people because they ate the Manna. By finishing their daily portion of Manna, they exhibited their trust that G'd would provide them with another portion the next day. In order to accept and observe the Torah laws, and to dedicate ourselves to its study, we must also internalize the lessons of the Manna, and put our trust in G'd.

Shemitah cycle

In the beginning of the first of this week's two parshios, the Torah instructs about the laws of the seven year Shemitah cycles, and how the fiftieth year is sanctified as the Jubilee year. The Shemitah cycle corresponds to the weekly cycle, with six days of work and the seventh day as an elevated day of spirituality where we must refrain from creative physical work. In the same way, the Torah commands us to work the land of Israel for six years and to elevate the seventh year to a higher spiritual level, where every landowner must leave his land for an entire year and allow everyone to help themselves to any produce that grew there on its own.

Perfect harmony on Shabbos

The six days of the week have no names in Hebrew. Sunday is referred to as the first day, Monday as the second day, and so on. This indicates that every day is part of a seven day cycle leading to Shabbos. G'd created the world in the course of six days that culminated with Shabbos, when everything was in place and co-existed in perfect harmony. In the same way, we have the opportunity to do our work throughout the weekdays and have everything in place for Shabbos.

Additional soul on Shabbos

The Talmud (Beitzah 16a) teaches that every Shabbos we receive an additional soul that enables us to rise to the special holiness of Shabbos. Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, the great post-war Chassidic leader who established the Satmar community in America, explains that if one prepares oneself appropriately before Shabbos, then this additional Shabbos soul will stay with the person during the rest of the week. And when Shabbos comes again, this person has now the ability to receive a new extra soul. In this way, every week has a potential for additional growth.

Jubilee year and perfect harmony

The same applies to the Shemitah cycle. Every Shemitah year many Israeli farmers utilize the opportunity to dedicate themselves to Torah study and spiritual growth, as they are prohibited from working their fields and orchards. Obviously, the following six years of work these farmers live on a higher spiritual level. After seven cycles of Shemitah, the Torah instructs that an additional year, the Jubilee year, must be observed in the same way as the Shemitah year. The Kabbalists explain that Shabbos and the Shemitah year correspond to the World to Come and the Jubilee year corresponds to the time of resurrection when everything will be restored in perfect harmony and beauty.

49 days spiritual growth

The seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuous, when we count for 49 days, resemble the 49 years of the seven Shemitah cycles. And the fiftieth day when we celebrate the revelation at Mount Sinai has a close connection to the Jubilee year. These are weeks of potential spiritual growth in preparation for our personal renewed acceptance of the Torah.

Accept Torah on a higher level

As we are getting closer to this special day, we must strive to elevate ourselves, each one on our personal level, so that when Shavuous arrives we will be ready to accept the Torah on a higher level, and this in turn will enable us to continue our further growth.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

Shalom. Michael Deverett

P.S. If you have any questions or enjoyed reading this e-mail, we would appreciate hearing from you. If you know of others who may be interested in receiving e-mails similar to this please let us know at michael@deverettlaw.com .


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