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 Sabbath rest for HASHEM. For six years you may sow your field and for six years you may prune your vineyard and you may gather in its crop, but the seventh year shall be a complete rest for the land, a Sabbath for HASHEM… (Vayikra 25:1-4)
What is the relationship between the “Sabbatical Year” and “Mount Sinai”? Just as the details of the Sabbatical were given on Mount Sinai so all the other Mitzvos and their particulars were given on Mount Sinai. (Rashi)
Rashi asks a question and he answers it! What is the connection between Mount Sinai and the Law of the Sabbatical year? It is quite remarkable that the Laws of Shmitta are connected to Mount Sinai. Mount Sinai and the experience in the desert, eating heavenly bread and learning all day is a world apart from entering a physical land with loads of agricultural needs.
Why should the Shmitta be mentioned in connection to Mount Sinai? And even according to Rashi what’s the importance of knowing that the details of the Sabbatical were promulgated at Mount Sinai?
The Zohar tells us that if Adam HaRishon, the first man, would have eaten first from “The Tree of Life” before eating from the “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” then he would have lived forever in the Garden of Eden. We know that that’s not what happened. He ate from “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Bad”, first and that made all the difference.
In practical terms, what are these two trees? They are actually two distinct ways of learning about life. “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” is subjectivity. It is the school of hard knocks, not Fort Knox, hard knocks. The tuition for this school is free at first but in the end it turns out to be extremely costly. It’s when we learn and discover through experience.
Many great lessons can be learned through difficult and even bitter experience but the fallout from those lessons linger on. Sure a person can learn who to marry and how to stay married and how to raise children properly by trial and error, but the human toll and the loss of time and can be devastating and tragic. No one wants to look back and utter the words, “I wish I had known this sooner! I could have saved myself and others loads of aggravation.”
Years back we paved a huge piece of land in our backyard and installed a basketball court. “Today I mention my sin”. I took up the cause of setting in cement and assembling the basket. While my oldest son was busy carefully studying the instruction manual, I was already at work putting things together. We came to the same discovery at the same time. He looked up at one moment and declared first you have to put this part on and only then attach the other. I had already done it in reverse order and was wondering why it didn’t fit quite right and why do I have an extra nut and bolt. Well I messed up and my mistake was unable to be undone. For the next 20 years it always had a distinct wobble; a constant reminder and a permanent monument to my false bravado.
Alternately, “The Tree of Life” is utter objectivity. It’s a code word for Torah. It means making use of the instruction manual for life.
Employing “The Tree of the Life” versus “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Bad” is the difference between going food shopping with an itemized shopping list and food shopping without a list. If one has a list there is a greater likelihood that he will navigate through all the tempting food isles and exit the store with only what was needed. If one doesn’t have list then the shopping cart will be filled with extra junk and the cost will be high.
When the Jewish People learned about the Laws of Shmitta well in advance to entering the Land of Israel, they were in fact reversing the faulty trend initiated by Adam HaRishon. Now they were gaining a mind of objectivity before engaging a heart of subjectivity. Learning the laws and the guiding principles of marriage before getting involved in the emotional world of a relationship is the formula for success.