Rabbi Chaim Dovid Green
To Whom the Land Belongs
And Hashem spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai saying; "Speak to the Children of
Israel and say to them that when you come to the land that I will give you
the land shall be at rest a Shabbos for Hashem". (Vayikra 25:1-2)
What's the special connection between Shmittah (letting go of work in the
seventh year-Sabbatical) and Mt. Sinai? Weren't all the mitzvos said from
What's the wisdom of giving commandments that have to do with life in the
land so distant from the place of their fulfillment? The Zohar states that
if Adam and Chava would have eaten first from "the tree of life" and then
from "the tree of knowledge" then they would have lived forever in a state
of perfection. Let's try to understand this concept a little bit.
The "tree of life" means objectivity. Sometimes we need not learn from our
own mistakes. When we need to assemble something there is an ideal to
follow detailed instructions from the manufacturer. This owner's manual is
as if a "tree of life".
The "tree of knowledge of good and evil" is actually a confusion of good
and evil. This is the school of hard-knocks. When we learn through trial
and error alone although the lessons may be deeply internalized, the
tuition exacted for graduation from that school is often costly.
This is part of the reason the Jewish Nation received the Torah in the
dessert removed from the confusion of subjectively. Before engaging the
physical world and its multifarious challenges first a degree of clarity
What should the friend of the drunk do when he returns after and few drinks
and he feels that he's OK to drive home? Decisions made in a state of
sobriety always overrule and eclipse subjective and self -interested feelings.
Two men were fighting furiously in a land dispute. Each man was convinced
that the land belonged to him. The dispute became bitter and personal. It
became more important "who" was right as opposed to "what" was right. Under
great pressure they went to a local Rav who recognized the bitter personal
nature of the argument.
Both presented their evidence to the Rabbi. He then went with them to the
piece of land in dispute. The Rabbi did an unusual thing. He laid down on
the ground. Everyone wondered what he was doing. He told them that they
needed to be still because he had to hear what the land was saying. They
were shocked. "Land can't talk", one said to the other. What was he doing?
After a few moments of quiet the Rabbi stood erect and approached the
curious crowd with confidence. He told them that the land had
decided. "You both claim and are convinced that the land belongs to you.
The land however says the opposite. You both belong to the land!"
After a period of time working on a given piece of land or a work project
one may begin to become intoxicated with grandiose delusions. Even moderate
success may make one drunk with power and the illusion of permanent ownership.
How sobering, then, for the human spirit when we return that land to real
owner and remove our hands from its maintenance for a whole year.
That whole year of sobriety fills the individuals of the nation with a
desire and offers an opportunity to study again and gain an objective
distance. What is the special connection between Shmittah and Mt. Sinai?
When we are made to pause long enough to hear what the land is saying, the
fruit of that experience grants us that objective Sinai perspective, seeing
clearly again to whom the land belongs.
Text Copyright © 1998 Rabbi Dovid Green and Project Genesis, Inc.