by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS B'HAR 5768 BS"D
Ch. 25, v. 3: "SheiSH shoniM tizrA" - Six years you will sow - The final letters of these three words spell SHMA. Whoever complies with the agricultural law of shmitoh testifies that Hashem is Unique and has created the world, and whoever does not comply, it is as if he has denied this. (Moshav Z'keinim)
Ch. 25, v. 3: "Sheish shonim tizra" - Six years you will sow - Rabbi Yaakov of Vienna comments that this is a great praise of the agricultural advantage in Eretz Yisroel, that one can plant continuously for six years and have abundant crops, without having to skip any years to allow the land to replenish its mineral content.
The Kli Yokor says that it is the norm to skip every third year to allow the land to rebuild its depleted growing power. If so, what is the greatness of keeping shmitoh, with the medrash calling the observant farmers "giborei ko'ach?" Even a gentile farmer leaves the land fallow, and with even greater frequency? The answer is simple. Hashem requires the farmers to leave the land fallow in unison, with everyone observing shmitoh during the same year. A non-believer might be frightened, thinking that there will be no food available.
Ch. 25, v. 3: "V'osafto es tvu'osoh" - And you will harvest HER grain - The female form "HER grain" refers back to what? From the flow of the verse it would seem that it refers to the six years' produce. If so the word should be "tvu'osoN." We might say that it refers to the earth, mentioned in the previous verse. However, Rabbeinu Yoel says that the suffix letter Hei alludes to the five types of grain, wheat, barley, spelt, oats, and rye.
Ch. 25, v. 9: "V'haavarto Shofar Tru'oh Bachodesh Hashvii" - And you shall sound a shofar blast in the seventh month - the first letters of these words spell "teshuvoh," an allusion that the month of Tishrei is auspicious for repentance. The word "taaviru" found later in our verse, alludes to "aveiros" (same letters as "taaviru") being pushed aside by the sounding of the shofar. (Rabbeinu Chaim Paltiel)
Ch. 25, v. 23: "Ki geirim v'soshovim a'tem imodi" - Because you are sojourners and citizens with Me - Whether you reside in Eretz Yisroel as citizens, or ch"v because of your sins you are sojourners in exile, you are with Me in the four exiles. "Imodi" spells "Imi Dalet." (Rabbeinu Efrayim)
Ch. 25, v. 35: "V'chi yomuch ochicho" - And when your brother becomes impoverished - We find your fellow man expressed as "your brother" in verses 14,15,17, although it does not literally mean "your brother." In verse 25 "your brother" is well understood, as it means a relative. The reason for this expression is that we are dealing in these verses with people who are in business and are usually people with financial resources. Everyone relates to such people as a "brother." In our verse the same term is used to teach us that even a poor person, from whom it is unlikely for us to benefit financially, should be treated in the same friendly manner. (Rabbi A.Z. Greenzweig)
Ch. 25, v, 35: "V'hechezakto bo" - And you shall strengthen him - Do not give him charity in a manner that makes him even more reliant upon others. This weakens him. Rather, do it in a manner that he will be able to work towards sustaining himself. (Medrash Habiur)
Ch. 25, v. 35: "Vochai imoch" - And he shall live with you - This past Friday, the fourth of Iyar, was the yahrzeit of the great tzadik Rabbi Yeshayoh of Kerestirer z"l. He is known to many through his photograph. There is a mesoroh that if one displays his picture in a house, mice will not infest it. (I do not know of the efficacy of this procedure.) He was a legendary champion of the poor and downtrodden. He would feed literally hundreds of people weekly who had nowhere to turn for a meal. His concern for their well being was so great that he filled his deep pockets with food and drink so that he could immediately feed someone in need, not withstanding that he looked quite unkempt, with bulging pockets. His practice might well be a fulfillment of "vochai IMOCH." Make sure that the poor man has sustenance, through "imoch," having food at hand with YOU. Z'chuso yogein o'leinu.
Ch. 25, v. 36: "V'yo'reiso meiElokecho" - And you shall have fear of your G-d - Rashi says that Hashem knows if you are using a subterfuge, "hanging one's money on a non-Jew to be able to lend it to a ben Yisroel with interest."
The Chid"o in Pnei Dovid cites the Nimukei Ri"d, who explains that this does not mean that when approached for a loan, the ben Yisroel tells the potential borrower that he only has money to lend that he himself borrowed from a non-Jew that is interest bearing, and therefore he has to pass on the interest cost of the loan, although in reality it is his own money. This is not the proper explanation, as even if it were true, it is still prohibited to lend such money with interest, as explained in the gemara B.M. chapter Ei'zehu Neshech. Rather, the explanation is that when the person was approached for a loan, he turned the petitioner down, but advised him that such-and-such a non-Jew has money to lend with interest. The ben Yisroel who was approached for the loan goes to the non-Jew, lends him money and tells him that this person will approach him for a loan, and the non-Jew should lend him this ben Yisroel's money with interest, and they would later split the profits. This is the intention of "v'yo'reiso," to prohibit even this.
Ch. 25, v. 39: "Lo saavode bo avodas o'ved" - Do not work him with slave work - Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried, in Sefer Aperion explains these words to mean as follows: In general the master has his slave do work that is productive and beneficial for the master. Sometimes he has no work for the slave. He might justify giving the slave a job that is really of no consequence, but keeps the slave busy, thus not training him to be idle. This is prohibited. You may not make him do "slave work" just to keep him in line as a slave.
Ch. 25, v. 47: "O l'eiker" - Or to a source - Rashi explains that this means that he wasn't just sold to a non-Jew, but to the source of their gentile behaviour, as a service attendant of idol worship. The gemara Kidushin 20a says that one might believe that he is only required to redeem a destitute person who sold himself into slavery to a non-Jew, but if he sold himself to work for idol worship (not to be confused with his accepting the idol as a deity), he might feel that he should through a stone on top of one who fell, i.e. not bother redeeming him because of his bad deed, so the Torah says that even such a person should be redeemed. The Sforno points out that we can derive from this law the extreme importance of caring for a person's physical well-being, regardless of his own suicidal attitude towards his spiritual well-being. Even though he put himself into this spiritually deploring state, redeem him and get him out of the hands of a place of avodoh zoroh, if for no other reason that he should be physically free.
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