by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
"HaShem spoke to Moshe at Mt. Sinai, saying: Speak to the children of
Israel, and tell them that when they come to the land which I am giving
them, they shall let the land rest, a Sabbatical for HaShem. Six years you
will seed your field, and six years you will prune your vineyard, and gather
its produce. And in the seventh year will be a Sabbatical for the land, a
Sabbatical for HaShem - you will not seed your field, and you will not prune
your vineyard... And the land will give forth its fruit, and you will eat
to satisfaction, and dwell securely upon it. And if you will ask, 'what will
we eat in the seventh year? Behold we are not seeding nor gathering our
crop!' I have commanded my blessing for you in the sixth year, and it will
produce a crop to last three years." [25:1-4, 19-21]
Here Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki) asks a question, which has been repeated
countless times as the paradigm for "what has one thing to do with the
other?" "Ma Shmitta Etzel Har Sinai?" - What do the laws of Shmitta, the
Sabbatical of the Land, have to do with Mt. Sinai more than any other
Mitzvah? The entire (Oral) Torah was given to Moshe at Mt. Sinai - so why
the emphasis on Shmitta?
Many answers are given, including that which Rashi quotes from the Midrash -
that it is indeed a paradigm: just as all of the various complex laws of
Shmitta were given at Sinai, so too all of the various Mitzvos were given,
in their full complexity, at Sinai.
The Chasam Sofer offers the possibility that Shmitta has a unique
relationship, for it tells us something about the authenticity of the Sinai
experience. Why? Because Shmitta offers a guarantee that the land will
produce in the sixth year to cover not merely the sixth and seventh, but the
eighth year as well.
The Torah promises the nation of Israel that they will
see a triple crop! The Chasam Sofer asks a simple question: "What person
would have the gall to make such a promise as 'I have commanded my blessing
upon the land, and it will produce a crop to last three years?'"
If we were to sit down and write a Bible, would we make this promise? How
long would we last if we did? At the very least, let's promise the triple
crop in the eighth year... then we can claim that people didn't follow us,
and thus didn't get the blessing! The Torah insists that the triple crop
will come in the sixth year, no ifs, ands or buts. The Chasam Sofer says
that the very audacity of this claim... is the best verification of Who made
it. [To some this may look like a refutable assertion, but I've yet to hear
a plausible theory on this. Any ideas?]
Text Copyright © 1995 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.