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Posted on May 24, 2024 (5784) By Rabbi Label Lam | Series: | Level:

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. 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 Shabbos 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 launches a question, here, that continues to invite answers; “What is the relationship between the “Sabbatical Year” and “Mount Sinai”?” What is the connection?

During the Sabbatical Year, “Shmitta”, the farmers yield their control over the fields that they have been working and managing. They are thereby acknowledging what the verse proclaims in the persona of HASHEM, “Ki Li HaAretz” – “Because the Land is Mine!” (Vayikra 25:23) Simply by being obedient to the Law of Shmitta, the farmer, himself is declaring, in action, that the Land of Israel is not his own, but rather it belongs to HASHEM. Now, what does that have to do with Mount Sinai? Everything, literally everything!

Who owns this world? The Zohar tells us that HASHEM looked into the Torah and created the world. The Torah is the blueprint of creation. Everything in this world is a manifestation of that “looking into the Torah”. All that exists is made of the Ratzon, the deepest “desire” of HASHEM. Therefore, any phenomena large or small, global or local, cosmic or microscopic has its roots in Torah and is an expression of HASHEM.

Dovid HaMelech declares in wonderment (Tehillim 104:24), “How manifold are YOUR works HASHEM; YOU have made all of them with wisdom; the world is full of YOUR possessions.” There can be no doubt that everything in this universe belongs to HASHEM.

The Talmud in Tractate Brochos points out a clash between two verses, both statements of King David. In one it is written, “The heavens are the heavens of HASHEM and the earth is given over to man”. The verse from Tehillim states, “The earth and everything in it is HASHEM’s”.

Which is it? What is the story with the earth? Does it belong to HASHEM or is it man’s domain? The Talmud resolves the conflict with a saying, “This is before the blessing and this is after a blessing.”

The standard way to understand this is that before a blessing the bounty and good of this world is HASHEM’s. It’s like strolling in a grocery store. One cannot just eat along the way. Everything there belongs to the grocer. Once one passes the cash register and swipes a credit card acknowledging that it belonged to the grocer, then the customer takes possession. Once we make a blessing acknowledging HASHEM then we have permission to enjoy that piece of goodness. That is the classic approach.

I once heard in the name of Rabbi Yosef Ber Solovetchik zl. that the Talmud does not delineate which is before and which is after. It can be learned in reverse. When I am holding, for example, an apple, it is mine. It is an ordinary piece of fruit.

When I make a Brocho, in appreciation of the fact that this red beauty is the handwork of HASHEM, then its status is elevated and that plain old pedestrian apple is converted into HASHEM’s. It becomes a completely spiritual entity, a heavenly apple.

Here’s a question that I am often asked in different ways, “Rabbi, what’s wrong with this lifestyle and why can’t I do that?” The assumption of the question is that this is an abandoned universe, a wild west, and we can do whatever we want and then the Torah and the Rabbis come along and arbitrarily ruin the party by forbidding this and that and guilting us up.
The real absolute truth and fact of life is, “The earth and everything in it is HASHEM’s”. I would not walk into your house and open the refrigerator and start taking stuff.

The real question is not, “Why can’t I?” but “May I”, “Thank You” and “Please!”. This is how one behaves as a guest in another’s home. We are in HASHEM’s home. The Land of Israel is HASHEM’s. Now, we only know this with certainty because of the presentation of the Torah, that happened 3,336 years ago at Mount Sinai.

Shmitta is intimately linked to and only made possible by Mount Sinai and our understanding of how HASHEM and the Torah are connected to and the actual source of everything. By actively acknowledging that it belongs to HASHEM, the land is made ours, and is also heralded as a heavenly land.