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Parshas Behar

Back to Sinai

By Rabbi Label Lam

HASHEM spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai, saying: Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall observe a Shabbos rest for HASHEM. (Vayikra 25:1-2)

What is the subject of Shmitta doing in relation to Mount Sinai? Were not all the Mitzvos stated at Mount Sinai? Rather it is written here to teach that just as with Shmitta its general rules and its details were stated at Mount Sinai so too with all the Mitzvos that their general rules and their details were stated at Mount Sinai. (Rashi)

Rashi asks a great question? What’s the connection between Mount Sinai and the Mitzvah of Shmitta? Rashi offers an answer but the question remains, “Why Shmitta?” What is the conceptual connection specifically between the Mitzvah of Shmitta and Mount Sinai?

The first Mishne in Pirke’ Avos begins with the statement, “Moshe received the Torah from Sinai…” Why is it phrased that way? He received the Torah from HASHEM at Mount Sinai. It didn’t come from Sinai. It occurred at Sinai! Firstly, why did HASHEM chose tiny Mount Sinai of all the gigantic mountains in the world? In the question is the answer! That’s exactly why HASHEM picked Mount Sinai, because it was lowly and humble, not lofty and haughty. For the same reason HASHEM revealed Moshe’s mission in a lowly burning bush and chose the Jewish People.

The reception of Torah is accompanied by ultra- humility and subjugation of mind and heart. Therefore it can be said that Moshe received the Torah from the supreme example of unpretentiousness and modesty represented by Mount Sinai.

The same can be said by Shemitta, the 7th year, when the entire nation participates in a grand cessation from active involvement in agriculture. What strength is required for the owner of a field to “let go” of control of his own field. How can a person humanly accomplish this? It might even be easy if one internalizes one of the primary lessons of Shmitta as it is written, “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is Mine; for you are sojourners and residents with Me! (Vayikra 25:23) That Land is not yours. It all belongs to HASHEM! Our stay here is brief like a passing shadow. Ultimately nothing I own is mine.

When Mount Sinai was flooded with the presence HASHEM the paradigm shifted to the notion that “The world is HASHEM’s and its fullness”. Shmitta “lands” that same point shaping a nation to re-receive the Torah.

Edward Reichman died in Jerusalem after a long illness at the age of 80 years old. He was a real estate tycoon who had become a billionaire. When he passed away, he left a vast fortune worth billions of dollars. He left 2 wills directing that one be opened immediately and that the other one to be opened 30 days later. Among the instructions left in his first will was the request that he be buried with a certain pair of socks he owned.

The Reichman children immediately brought the socks to the Chevra Kadisha, requesting that their father be buried in them. Of course the Chevra Kadisha refused, reminding the family that it is against Halacha. They pleaded explaining that their father was a very pious and learned man, and he obviously had a very good reason to make this request. The Chevra Kadisha remained firm in their-refusal.

The family frantically summoned the Chevra Kadisha to the Beit Din where the great Rav explained to them "Although your father left that request when he was in this world, now that he is in the world of truth, he surely understands that it is in his best interests to be buried without the socks."

Mr. Reichman was buried without his socks. 30 days later, the second will was opened and it read something like this: "My dear children, by now you must have buried me without my socks. I wanted you to truly understand that a man can have 1 billion dollars, but in the end, he can't even take along one pair of socks!"

So it is with regard to money the prophet says, “Mine is the silver and Mine is the gold, so says HASHEM the Lord of Hosts!” (Haggai 2:8) We are just temporary guardians. I guess it’s not true what the bumper sticker says, “Whoever dies with the most wins!”

Just as Avraham Avinu was told “Lech Lecha M’Artzecha”- “Go to yourself (away) from your earthliness”…Shmitta mandates shedding false assumptions that once removed just might deliver us back to Sinai.

DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and



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