This Land is My Land
"Have you seen enough of this property to make a decision?"
"Yes, I like what I see. It looks like good farmland. Are there any special conditions pertaining to the land that I must know about?"
"Yes, a few. First, when you plant a new tree, you may not eat any of the fruit for three years. The fruits of the fourth year of the new tree must be taken to Yerushalayim and eaten there."
"I see. Anything else?"
"The bikurim, first fruits of the year, must be taken to Yerushalayim and give to a Kohen."
"Okay. Now can we talk price?"
"There are a few other conditions first. Before you eat the fruits of your labors, you must first give Trumah to the Kohen, Maaser Rishon to the Levi, and depending on the year, Maaser Oni to the poor person. You must leave the fruit that you forgot, the fruit that you left behind, and corners of the field for the needy."
"Hmmm. There seem to be quite a few conditions over here."
"I'm not finished. Once every seven years, you may not sow this field at all. Whatever grows by itself is hefker, free for anyone to take. After seven cycles of seven years, on the 50th year, the land returns to its original owner."
"One minute. Let me see if I have this straight. A good portion of the fruits I have to give away. Some of the ones I keep have to be taken far away to be eaten. I cannot even work the field at all every seven years. I have to give it away after 49 years.""That is correct."
"I'm sorry. I cannot purchase a piece of land with all of these conditions upon it. It won't really be mine."
"The land shall not be sold for ever, for the land is Mine." (Vayikra 25:23). The verse is referring to the land of Israel. It belongs to Hashem. We may buy, sell, and work it, but only under His conditions.* The Sifra comments that one should not badly upon these conditions. The Malbim explains that buyer should not feel badly that he will have to give the land back eventually. For it is not really his. Similarly, the seller should not be discouraged that he cannot make a permanent sale. Rather, they should both realize that they are just residents on the King's land. As the verse states, "For you are strangers and residents with Me" (Vayikra 25:23). "Do not make yourselves ‘ikar' (the central figure)," states the Malbim. How do we understand this? A person puts time, effort, money, and energy into farming his land. He plows, he plants, he fertilizes, he weeds, he waters, he harvests, he gathers, and he prepares the crops for eating. After all of this work, he may sit back and say, "Look what I did. Isn't it beautiful? I am now going to enjoy the fruits of my labors. I earned it through my hard work." "Do not fall into this trap!" warns the Sifra. "Do not make yourselves the ikar." You cannot make a fruit grow. Without Hashem running the world under the guise of the "laws of nature," nothing would ever grow. Your efforts are nothing more than small actions, compared to Hashem's mastery of the world. He is The Ikar. You are just "strangers and residents" with Him.
The Malbim then draws a beautiful parable. Just as the buyer and seller are only staying on the land temporarily, so too our souls are only on this earth temporarily. Just as the land goes back to its original owner at Yovel (the 50th year), so too our souls go back to their home, the Heavenly realm, after 120 years. The spiritual side of us, the G-dly soul, is only a temporary resident here. Its roots are under the Heavenly throne. To there it aspires to return, after it completes its earthly mission.
Kinderlach . . .
You work hard. You accomplish. You succeed. You learn a whole mesechta. You make a siyum. You feel great. It is tempting to say, "Look what I did!" Stop. Think. Keep things in perspective. Who blessed you with eyesight to see the words of gemora? Who blessed you with hearing to listen to your Rebbe and your chavrusa? Who blessed you with the intelligence to understand the Word of Hashem? And the memory to remember it? The One Above. He is The Ikar. As the verse states, "He made us and we are His," (Tehillim 100:3). This realization will bring you to love Hashem kinderlach. You will see and appreciate how much He does for you. You will change the focus from yourself to Hashem. You will replace the Yetzer Hara with the Yetzer Hatov. Kinderlach, hatzlacha rabba (may Hashem grant you much success)!
*The Bircas Mordechai expands this concept to include other mitzvos of the Land.
"If your brother sinks low, and his hand falters with you; you shall strengthen him" (Vayikra 25:35). Simply understood, this verse is referring to lending money to your fellow Jew who is poor. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh has a beautiful and novel interpretation. "If your brother sinks low" refers to a person's low spiritual level, caused by a weakening in his Torah learning and mitzvah observance. That is the true poverty. "And his hand falters" means that his spirit darkens. "With you" the Ohr HaChaim explains to mean that the spirit lives together with the body. It is the other half of the person; the non-spiritual side that is bringing him down. "You shall strengthen him" and encourage yourself to do t'shuva (repentance). This is the best way to restore the spirit to its lofty level.
Kinderlach . . .
We all have our ups and downs. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh is giving us practical advice for when we are down. Let us not wallow and feel sorry for ourselves. Rather, we should realize that this is an opportunity to do t'shuva. Examine why we are down. Perhaps we are slacking off in our learning. Perhaps we are doing our mitzvos sloppily. Let us put ourselves back on the right track and strengthen ourselves. Use this temporary downer as an opportunity to come back stronger than ever!
How is the sale of land pro-rated? (25:14-17 and Rashi)
When should you help someone whose fortunes are down? (Rashi 25:35)
What type of work should a Jewish servant do and not do? (25:39,40,43)
How do we fulfill the verse, "Im bechukosai talachu"? (Rashi 26:3)
What is wealth worth without peace? (Rashi 26:6 and Sifsei Chachomim)How do we know that observing the Torah gives people power out of proportion to their numbers? (Rashi 26:8)
Kinder Torah Copyright 2004 All rights reserved to the author Simcha Groffman
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