Rabbi Label Lam
Parshas Behar-Bechukosai - The Birthday Card
And Hashem spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai saying; "Speak to the Children of
Israel and say to them, when you come to the land which I give you, the
land shall be at rest - a Shabbos for Hashem." (Leviticus 25:1-2)
What's the special connection between the Sabbatical Year and Mount Sinai?
Weren't all the commandments given at Mount Sinai? Rather, just as the
laws of the Sabbatical Year were said with all their generalities, details
and specifications on Mount Sinai, so all laws were given generally and
specifically from Sinai. (Rashi)
The laws of the Sabbatical Year were chosen as the model for all the
commandments that were given on Mt. Sinai. Why? And still what is the
connection between the Sabbatical year and Mt. Sinai?
At a birthday party there is sometimes the ceremonious moment when the
gifts are opened. Everyone sits around with piqued interest to see what's
inside the boxes wrapped so carefully and decoratively. The birthday girl
or boy is excited to see what will be added to his or her collection of new
things. Each individual waits for the moment their gift will be revealed,
anxious as to what the reaction will actually be. Will it be appreciated or
not? Such is the drama built into the gift giving ceremony.
When that magic moment finally arrives, the wrapping paper is swiped off
the box, the sweater is violently torn from it and held up to see if it's a
near fit before the birthday boy or girl is running hungrily to the next
gift. The wise parent overseeing the event will inevitably intervene,
understanding that the feelings of the giver of the gift are being trampled
in a feeding frenzy of selfish greed. We can hardly blame the child but he
or she must be made to slow down before moving onto the next gift to do one
or two things first.
That good parent will then remind the little child that there is something
he forgot to do handing them the envelope that came flying off when the
gift was being ravaged from the box. The pace of the party now slows to a
precious and poignant punctuation. The envelope is opened. The beautiful
card is revealed and the words are read slowly and aloud for all to hear.
"To our favorite nephew/niece Larry/Carrie Happy birthday. With love, your
Uncle Bob and Aunt Helene." A tear wells up in the eye of the recipient.
There's an embrace. The gift is temporarily forgotten. The giver and the
receiver are united. The gift is understood to be a means of connecting the
two and for even a brief moment or two, this aspect of the process is clear
The Ohr HaChaim says that the connection between Mt. Sinai and the
Sabbatical year is to remind that the Torah, which was given on Mt. Sinai,
is the key to successfully living in "the land that I give to you". The
connection goes the other way as well. When the Sabbatical Year is properly
observed, the entire nation is to engage in Torah study as when the whole
of the Jewish nation were miraculously cared for in the desert. Resting the
land and ceasing from working it puts us back at Mount Sinai - the
experience of Mount Sinai - the experience of re-receiving and properly
appreciating the Torah.
The Torah is like that birthday card. It expresses the deepest wishes of
the giver and connects the giver to the receiver of the land, which is the
gift. Only when one is forced to step back from being so aggressively
involved with opening the precious gift and its continuous unfolding bounty
and beauty can one be brought to look with sincerity into the heart of the
card. True, also, is the fact that the card is that much more meaningful
when the gift is open before us. What happens next is nothing less than a
loving mutual embrace, which is the fulfillment of the gift, the goal of
the card, and for both the giver and recipient their deepest desire.
Text Copyright © 2000 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.