Parshas Behar - Bechukosai
The commandment of Shemitah is a test of our faith and an examination in
our true belief in the Almighty's ability to sustain us. The Torah commands
us that every seven years we must let the land of Israel lie fallow, with
no harvesting or planting of crops. But Hashem promises us that if "you
shall perform My decrees, and observe My ordinances and perform them, then
you shall dwell securely on the land. The land will give its fruit and you
will eat your fill; you will dwell securely upon it" (Leviticus 25:18-19).
Rashi explains the blessing "even if you eat only a little, it will be
blessed in your stomach," The little you eat will grow into a bounty of
satiation. But after assuring us that our little will feel plentiful the
Torah talks to the naysayers. The Torah talks about that group of people.
"If you will say - What will we eat in the seventh year? -- behold! We will
not sow and not gather in our crops!" Hashem assures them as well. "I will
ordain My blessing for you in the sixth year and it will yield a crop
sufficient for the three-year period." (Ibid v.20-21)
The Kli Yakar and a host of other commentaries ask. Why should a Jew ask
that troubling question? Didn't Hashem command his abundant blessing in the
sixth year? Didn't the little bit of food leave them satisfied? Why do they
have concern about the ensuing years?
My dear friend Rabbi Benyamin Brenig of Golders Green, London recently
related this wonderful story to me: Reuvain and Shimon were two men, who
lived on opposite ends of town. They each inherited a fortune of gold. Each
of them decided to bury their fortunes in their backyards. They wanted to
make sure that they would have something to sustain them in their old age.
On their respective properties, they each picked a landmark, paced twenty
steps due north and dug a large hole.
Reuvain, the more nervous of the two, was careful to make sure that no one
was watching. Every other second he glanced furtively over his shoulder to
make sure that no one saw him bury the treasure. No one did.
Shimon, by nature, was trusting and carefree and he was not so careful. He
was not worried that anyone would steal his fortune. But he was wrong. He
was spotted by a nosy neighbor, who was also a thief.
In the middle of the night, the thief dug up the fortune. Out of mercy, he
left few coins at the bottom of the pit, and removed the coins. He refilled
the hole and packed the ground perfectly as if nothing was disturbed. Then
he took off with the fortune.
Reuvain's fortune, however, remained intact. But he was, by nature, a
worrier. And so, the next day he decided to dig up the hole to make sure
that the gold was still there. Accidentally, he counted only fifteen paces
from his landmark and dug. There was nothing there. Reuvain was frantic.
Someone must have seen him dig the pit, he figured. For the rest of his
life, he worried. On his property, he had a pit filled with gold coins, but
all Reuvain did was worry!
Shimon on the other hand had nothing but the remnants of a few coins.
Everything else was stolen. But he never checked the fortune, and was
merrily content, assured that when the time would come he could dig up the
pit and retrieve his fortune. Reuvain, the millionaire, died heartbroken
and frantic. Shimon, the man with but a few coins left for his old-age
lived his life content as if he was the wealthiest man in the world.
The Torah tells us about the different types of blessings. For the
faithful, Hashem says, "I will command my blessing in the sixth
year," in which Rashi assures us that even a bit will feel like a bounty.
But we must acknowledge that despite Heavenly assurances, there are those
who always worry. They need to see the money! They ask, "What will we eat
in the seventh year? Behold! We will not sow and not gather in our crops!"
Hashem must assure them that he will increase their bounty in a way that is
visible to them.
Some of us can believe without seeing immediate results. We can sleep well,
with full satisfaction on empty stomachs. The greatest expression of faith
is when we do not see the blessing, but we feel it in our hearts and even
in our stomachs. That blessing transcends tangibility, and the fear of
deficiency. I think that is a noble goal.
For the rest of us, those who keep looking over their shoulder and check
their fortunes every day, they need a different type of blessing. Sometimes
we dig for tangible salvation, even though the treasure is sitting
undisturbed in our own backyard.
Dedicated by Aleeza & Avi Lauer and Family, in memory of Avi's father,
Rabbi Elias Lauer - Harav Eliezer Ben Aharon Dovid, A"H, on the occasion of
his yartzeit, 26th day of Iyar, and in memory of Avi's grandfather, Aaron
Lauer - Ahron Dovid Ben Eliezer, A"H, on the occasion of his yartzeit, 28th
day of Iyar.
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