Oroh V'Simchoh

Meshech Chochmoh
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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 25, v. 2: "V'shovsoh ho'oretz Shabbos laShem" - And the land shall rest a Sabbatical to Hashem - The Toras Kohanim 1:2 equates the resting of the land on the "shmitoh" year to the resting on Shabbos, where the verse also says "Shabbos laShem" (Shmos 20:10). We can understand this by creating the following equation: Shabbos is to Yom Tov as "shmitoh" is to "yoveil." Just as Shabbos comes about without our intervention as per the gemara Beitzoh 17a, "Do the bnei Yisroel sanctify Shabbos? Shabbos is holy and self-standing," so too, "shmitoh" comes on the 7th year without our involvement.

However, Yom Tov depends totally upon sanctification by the courts. They establish the beginning of each month, which in turn affects when Yom Tov takes place. Their control is so potent that even if they intentionally decide to establish the new month contrary to calculations (Rabbi Saadioh Gaon and Rabbeinu Chanan'eil) and lunar sightings (Rambam), their decisions are still final and binding, even if in the Celestial spheres it is decided otherwise. This is why we make the blessing, "M'ka'deish haShabbos v'Yisroel v'hazmanim." We do not say "m'da'deish Yisroel" before mentioning Shabbos because Shabbos needs no intervention from us to take place (gemara ibid.).

Similarly, "shmitoh" differs from "yoveil." "Shmitoh's" sanctity and laws automatically come upon us without human involvement, and that is why it is called "Shabbos laShem." However, "yoveil" is like Yom Tov in that it depends upon the actions of people. Three things must take place before "yoveil" is in force. They are the blowing of a shofar, the emancipation of slaves, and the return of inheritance properties (Rambam hilchos shmitoh v'yovlos 10:13). This is why verse 20 says, "v'kidashTEM es shnas hachamishim shonoh," - YOU shall sanctify the 50th year. This is also shown in verse 12, "yoveil hee shnas hachamishim shonoh t'h'yeh LOCHEM." We find a similar term "y'h'yeh LOCHEM" by Yom Tov (Vayikroh 23:7), indicating that it is in the hands of the courts to usher in Yom Tov and "yoveil."

Conceptually this difference between "shmitoh" and "yoveil" can be understood as follows: "Shmitoh" is a mitzvoh that is similar in theme to Shabbos. Both testify that Hashem created the world and is its owner. We therefore refrain from creative work on Shabbos and from agricultural pursuits during the "shmitoh" year. We loosen our grip as owners and masters over the world. "Yoveil" is reminiscent of the exodus from Egypt, a Yom Tov. We were freed from oppressive slavery, and likewise on Yom Kippur of the "yoveil" year we free our slaves. (Meshech Chochmoh)

Ch. 25, v.3,4: "Sheish shonim tizra .. , u'vashonoh hashviis shabbas shabbosone" - Rashi on 25:2 brings the T.K. 25:7 which says that the seventh year is for Hashem, similar to the weekly Shabbos, where it also says Shabbos shabbosone (Shmos 31:15, 35:2). It seems that the seven years of the Shmittoh cycle correspond to the seven days of the week. We find that the words "ki tov" are mentioned twice on the third day of creation. As well, on the sixth day "ki tov" is mentioned once and the expression "v'hinei tov m'ode" is also found. The MESHECH CHOCHMOH says that during the seven-year cycle we find that "maaser oni," tithing which is given to the poor, is given on the third and the sixth years. Charity is an act of "tov," kindness, corresponding to the word "tov" written twice on both the third and sixth days of creation.

Perhaps another point can be added. On the sixth day we find the expression, "tov M'ODE," exceedingly good. This might be in place since giving a tenth of one's produce on the sixth year is an exceedingly great act of kindness. Since the donour will not plant on the seventh year, he has a greater inclination to save as much as possible from the sixth year to sustain himself later. Alternatively, since there is a blessing that the sixth year will give forth produce to sustain us for three years, the tithing of the produce of the sixth year is triple the normal yearly amount, hence "tov m'ode."

Ch. 25, v. 13: "Toshuvu ish el achuzoso" - The MESHECH CHOCHMOH asks why Hashem placed Yovel and Shmitoh back to back creating a two year continuum of prohibition of almost all agricultural activities. He answers that Hashem has commanded in this verse that all fields that were an inheritance handed down from generation to generation from the times of Yehoshua which were sold, should be returned to their original owners. After the purchaser has owned the field for possibly close to five decades, he has become emotionally attached to the field, truly feeling that it will always be his. To soften the blow of having to return it gratis, Hashem has given two consecutive years during which one may have no agricultural pursuits. Thus it is not as difficult to relinquish the property during the beginning of the second year of the agricultural moratorium.

I have seen written similar reasoning for the law (gemara R.H. 8b, Rambam hilchos Shmitoh v'Yovel 10:14) that when releasing slaves in the Yovel year, the slaves are freed from work on Rosh Hashonoh and only go free ten days later on Yom Kippur after the sounding of the shofar. In the interim the responsibility to feed and house them still rests upon the master although they do not work for him. This ruling similarly softens the hardship of relinquishing a slave.

Ch. 25, v. 35,36: "Geir v'soshov ......, al tikach mei'ito neshech" - The MESHECH CHOCHMOH says that the Torah mentions a Geir here to tell us that even if one gave an interest bearing loan to a non-Jew, if that non-Jew has converted to Judaism, "al tikach mei'ito neshech," it is still forbidden to ask for interest payments.

Ch. 25, v. 49: "O hisigoh yodo v'nigol" - If a relative may redeem him, isn't it obvious that he can redeem himself? The MESHECH CHOCHMOH amswers that it is necessary to mention his redeeming himself in relation to the ruling in the words immediately after "o hisigoh yodo v'nigol." The following verse states, "V'chishav im koneihu," that he should make an accurate calculation with his purchaser, so as to not underpay. Not only does this apply when a relative redeems him, but even when he redeems himself, and feels very hardpressed to extricate himself from being a slave, he should still not take advantage of his purchaser, and should make sure to pay his full redemption value.


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