Friday, May 3, 2013

Dvar Torah for Parshas Behar-Bechukosai

       This week we close out Sefer Vayikra with the double parsha of Behar-Bechukosai. Parshas Behar deals mostly with the laws of Shemitah; that every seventh year, no farm work is allowed to be done. This mitzvah shows us one of the biggest proofs to the Torah's validity. If planting is prohibited during the seventh year, what food will there be to eat in the eighth year? Hashem promises us in this weeks parsha, "וְצִוִּיתִי אֶת בִּרְכָתִי לָכֶם בַּשָּׁנָה הַשִּׁשִּׁית וְעָשָׂת אֶת הַתְּבוּאָה לִשְׁלשׁ הַשָּׁנִים" "I will command My blessing for you in the sixth year, and it will yield produce for three years." (Vayikra 25:21). In this pasuk, Hashem is essentially guaranteeing the truth of the Torah. By saying that the land will produce three years worth of produce at once, if it does not happen then the people will know the Torah is not true! Since our forefathers did indeed keep the Torah, it must be that this miracle occurred every Shemitah cycle.  
       The full context of the pesukim reads, "וְכִי תֹאמְרוּ מַה נֹּאכַל בַּשָּׁנָה הַשְּׁבִיעִת...וְצִוִּיתִי אֶת בִּרְכָתִי לָכֶם בַּשָּׁנָה הַשִּׁשִּׁית וְעָשָׂת אֶת הַתְּבוּאָה לִשְׁלֹשׁ הַשָּׁנִים"  "And if you should say, 'what will we eat in the seventh year?...I will command my blessing for you..." (25:20-21). The meforshim debate at what point exactly Bnei Yisrael's fears of a famine will start. The Ramban says that since the food harvested in the sixth year will last through the seventh year, as the typical practice is to eat food that was grown the previous year, Bnei Yisrael will start to worry only then about what they will eat in the eighth year. So Hashem promises that from the sixth year there will be enough food to last through the eighth. The Kli Yakar asks that this does not make any sense! If the food harvested in the sixth year will be enough to last through the eighth, why would Bnei Yisrael start to worry in the seventh? They already have the food for next year saved up! He explains that the amount of food produced in the sixth year will be the same amount as usual. However, that food will have a bracha on it that it will expand in your stomach so that much less food is necessary to fill you up. So while the amount of food looks like it can only last one year, it will actually be able to last for longer. This is why Bnei Yisrael will still worry after the food has been harvested, since it will not appear to be enough. 
       The Sichos Mussar, written by Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz, explains how this concept is the main point of Shemitah. The medrash at the beginning of Vayikra says that the people who keep Shemitah are called "גיבורי כח", which would be translated nowadays as "heroes". The medrash explains how a typical mitzvah is done in a moment, a day, perhaps even longer, but to perform a mitzvah for an entire year, especially one that compromises your livelihood, what shows more strength than that! 
       When Bnei Yisrael answered "נעשה ונשמע" at Har Sinai, they reached the level of angels; the same way angels are ready to perform a task even before they hear it, so too were Bnei Yisrael ready to accept the Torah before even knowing what it entailed. Same with those who keep Shemitah; the farmers show no hesitation or wonder how to survive the year with no crops or in the future with their land being ruined by the crowds of people trolling through to pick the free crops (all crops become ownerless on Shemitah and therefore everyone has equal rights to them). They simply accept the commandment from Hashem and practice "נעשה ונשמע". 
       The amazing thing about this mitzvah, which puts you on the level of angels, is that every single person has the opportunity to practice it! Even if you are not a farmer, different challenges arise just by living in Eretz Yisrael during Shemitah and by overcoming them, you fulfill the mitzvah. The fact that everyone has this chance shows how every single Jew has the potential (and maybe is expected to be) to reach the level of angels.  
       Still, with this opportunity comes a great responsibility. The Torah tells us that the punishment for not keeping Shemitah is Galus, exile from Eretz Yisrael. In fact, Chazal teach us that the first Galus lasted seventy years because Bnei Yisrael did not keep seventy Shemitah years. But why is the punishment so harsh? The Sichos Mussar explains that the point of Shemitah is to allow Bnei Yisrael to work on their bitachon, faith, in Hashem. This is why the mitzvah was given even to the simplest Jews, the unlearned farmers, and this is why the punishment for not keeping this mitzvah is so harsh; because without bitachon, a Jew is nothing. 
       This is what is so important about the Kli Yakar's explanation; if there is only enough food to last one year, what will be left for the next? According to the Kli Yakar, this is the test of Shemitah. Hashem promises there will be enough food even though it does not appear that way. The key is to trust in Hashem that this food will be enough for the future. By fulfilling the true purpose of Shemitah, we will be zoche to stay in Eretz Yisrael together with the rebuilt Beis Hamikdash!

Shabbat Shalom!

Click here for last year's Dvar Torah for Behar

Click here for last year's Dvar Torah for Bechukosai

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