Much of this week's two parashot deals directly or indirectly with the
mitzvot of shemittah, the agricultural sabbatical year, and yovel, the
jubilee (50th) year, when the land must also be left fallow. Our Sages
explain that the purpose of refraining from agricultural activities in
these years is to remind us that the land belongs to Hashem and it is He
who provides our sustenance.
If so, asks R' Moshe Zuriel shlita (former mashgiach ruchani of
Yeshivat Sha'alvim), why do these mitzvot apply only in Eretz Yisrael?
Hashem is, after all, Master of the entire globe!
The answer is that, although Hashem created the entire world, it is
only with Eretz Yisrael that He maintains a direct, day-to-day relationship
("hashgachah pratit"). This is taught in the verses (Devarim 11:10-12),
"For the Land to which you come, to possess it -- it is not like the land
of Egypt that you left, where you would plant your seed and water it on
foot like a vegetable garden. But the Land to which you cross over to
possess it is a Land of hills and valleys; from the rain of heaven shall
you drink water. A Land that Hashem, your G-d, seeks out; the eyes of
Hashem, your G-d, are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to
year's end." In other lands, e.g., Egypt, one can rely on the natural
water supply (e.g., the Nile). Eretz Yisrael, however, is very much
dependent on rain, which is, in turn, dependent upon the will of Hashem.
In a related vein: The Zohar observes that Moshe Rabbeinu refers to
Hashem (when speaking to Bnei Yisrael) as "Your G-d." Why does he not
say, "Our G-d"? The Zohar explains that one who lives outside of Eretz
Yisrael is, in a sense, G-dless. Therefore, since Moshe was not destined
to enter the Land, he could not say "Our G-d."
Given the special relationship between Eretz Yisrael and Hashem, we
can readily understand why the mitzvot of shemittah and yovel, which
highlight the dependence of the earth on G-d's kindness, would apply only
in the Holy Land. (Otzrot Ha'Torah)
From the Parashah . . .
"You shall sanctify the year of the fiftieth year . . . and
each of you shall return to his ancestral heritage . . ." (Vayikra
Why is the word "year" mentioned twice? R' Yechezkel Shraga
Lifschutz-Halberstam z"l (the Stropkover Rebbe) explains:
During the 49 days of the Omer, we are supposed to be preparing
ourselves to receive the Torah on Shavuot, the 50th day. But what if
Shavuot comes and we realize that we have not prepared at all? It is
written in certain works that one should not become depressed, for, on
Shavuot itself, one can make-up all of the spiritual gains that he should
have accomplished during the Omer.
The same thing, says the Stropkover Rebbe, is true of the Yovel /
Jubilee year, which has additional holiness compared to other years. The
repetition of the word "year" in our verse teaches that one can attain in
one year everything that he should have achieved in the preceding 49
years. This is similar to that which Rambam writes: "Even the repentance
of one who does not repent until he is on his death bed is accepted."
[Ed. note: Rambam does write, however, that such a repentance is not as
meaningful as a repentance that occurs in one's youth, when one's drives
Why is it that one can repent in his old age after a lifetime of
sinning? Why is it that one can accomplish in a short time (in the 50th
year or on Shavuot) what one should have spent a long time accomplishing?
Our verse tells us the answer: Such a person is merely returning to his
ancestral heritage. In reality, no Jew ever lets go of that heritage
completely, whether he realizes it or not.
(Divrei Yechezkel Shraga Vol. III)
"If you will follow My decrees and observe My commandments . . ."
Rashi writes that "If you will follow My decrees" refers to toiling in
Torah study. If so, writes R' Akiva Yosef Schlesinger z"l (Hungary and
Yerushalayim; died 1922), we can understand why this verse follows
immediately after the verse, "My Sabbaths you shall observe."
Specifically, the Midrash Tanna D'vei Eliyahu states that the primary time
for Torah study is on Shabbat, when one is free from working. (Torat
"Then they will confess their sin and the sin of their
forefathers, for the treachery with which they betrayed Me . . . I, too,
will behave toward them with casualness and I will bring them into the
land of their enemies." (26:40-41)
Why, if Bnei Yisrael confess their sins, will Hashem behave toward
them with casualness and bring them to the land of their enemies? R' Moshe
Freidiger z"l (communal leader in Pest, Hungary) explains:
Teshuvah means confessing one's sins and not making excuses. Here,
Bnei Yisrael will confess, but they will justify their actions by saying
that their forefathers acted the same way. Such "teshuvah" will be
rejected. (Quoted in Otzrot Tzaddikei U'geonei Ha'dorot)
From the Haftarah . . .
"Hashem -- my Strength, my Stronghold and my Refuge in the
day of travail -- to You nations will come from the ends of the earth,
and say, `Our ancestors inherited only falsehood, futility that has
no purpose. Can a man make a god for himself? They are not gods!'
"Therefore, behold I inform them upon this occasion, I shall let
them know of My hand and My strength; and they shall know that My Name is
Hashem." (Yirmiyah 16:19-21)
R' Moshe David Valle z"l (1697-1777; Italian kabbalist) writes: It is
already known that every person is like a blind man until Hashem enlightens
his eyes. How else could a man think that he could make a god for
himself?! The truth is the opposite, as it should be; G-d makes man, not
the other way around. Certainly man is not a god! How then can he make a
god? One cannot give another that which the giver does not possess
himself. Since men have no Divine powers, they cannot impart such power
to their handiwork. This is the meaning of, "Can a man make a god for
himself? They are not gods!"
However, Hashem allowed the nations to live through history under the
false impression that they could create gods. Only at the time of the
final tikkun will He enlighten their eyes to the identity of the one true
Hashem. This is the meaning of, "Behold I inform them upon this
occasion . . ." "This occasion" refers to the time of the ultimate
tikkun. At that time, He will enable the nations to see the truth that
they have failed to recognize until now. "I shall let them know of My
hand and My strength." It is a great thing that they will learn at that
time, i.e., "they shall know that My Name is Hashem" - the One and Only,
the Master of all things that exist, the Ruler over all Creation.
[Unfortunately, many of Bnei Yisrael share the same erroneous beliefs
as the nations. In the continuation of the haftarah,] Hashem informs the
prophet that it would be futile for him to pray that his nation see the
light, for this is possible only through the suffering of exile. (Marpeh
"Blessed is the gever / man who trusts in Hashem, then Hashem
will be his security." (Yirmiyah 17:7)
R' Chanoch Zundel ben Yosef z"l (19th century; author of popular
commentaries on midrashim) writes: The term used for man - "gever" - refers
to a person in the prime of his strength (gevurah). True bitachon is
placing one's trust in Hashem even when one thinks he can succeed on his
If one does this, "Hashem will be his security" in old age as well.
(Etz Yosef Al Ha'siddur)
This week, we present an excerpt from Eleh Masei, subtitled "A
Journal of the Journey of the Rabbis, Members of the Committee to Raise
the Crown of Judaism in Our Holy Land, Who Toured All the Settlements of
Shomron [Samaria] and Galil [Galilee] in the Winter of 5674 ." This
journal was written by R' Yonatan Binyamin Halevi Horowitz, and recounts
the travels together of R' Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook, R' Yosef Chaim
Sonnenfeld, R' Ben-Zion Yadler, R' Yaakov Moshe Charlap, and R' Moshe
From Thursday to Sunday, 20-23 Marcheshvan 5674 / 1914, the
delegation visited Zichron Yaakov. The issues they addressed there and
their level of success are summarized in the following letter addressed to
the rabbis by the town council:
Sunday, 23 Marcheshvan 5674, Zichron Yaakov . . .
Honored rabbis! We are honored to present to you the minutes of our
meeting tonight. Together with these, we are honored to tell you of our
decisions vis-a-vis your requests and demands.
(1) Regarding arrangements for the separation of terumah and ma'aser,
we have named a commission consisting of Mr. Yitzchak Goldstein and Mr. T.
Krupik. Mr. Pinchas Sokolovitch will be responsible for executing their
(2) Regarding introducing religious instruction into the schools, we
have decided that we agree in principle with this just request. However,
arranging the details and setting the budget, and also your request that
boys and girls be separated in class, we are turning over to a school
board that will be formed soon and which will deal with the matter.
(3) In response to your comments regarding Shabbat observance, the
council is honored to tell you that it has already dealt with this, and
also in the future it will take steps to strengthen this important area.
(4) Regarding the bimah [i.e., placing it in the center of the shul]
and placing wedding canopies outdoors and not in the shul, we have decided
to call a community meeting and to encourage the adoption of your
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study
and discussion of Torah topics ('lehagdil Torah u'leha'adirah'), and
your letters are appreciated. Web archives at Torah.org start with 5758 (1997) and
may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.
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