These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape # 46, Dealing with Illness on Shabbos. Good Shabbos!
Leave The Worrying To — Avinu BaShamayim [Our Father In Heaven]
The pasuk [verse] at the end of the parsha says, “Three times in the year all males should appear before the Master, Hashem, G-d of Israel” [Shemos 34:23]. This is the source of the obligation to be “Oleh Regel” — to go up to the Beis HaMikdash [Temple] in Yerushalayim [Jerusalem] — on Pesach, Shavuos, and Succos. The next pasuk continues, “…no man will covet your land when you go up to appear before Hashem, your G-d, three times a year” [34:24].
The simple interpretation of these pasukim [verses] is that the primary thrust of the command is to be “Oleh Regel”. As a secondary point, the Torah informs us that while one is away from home performing this mitzvah, there is no need to fear that someone will covet the land.
However, there is also a deeper message. The Talmud says that one who does not own land in Eretz Yisroel [the Land of Israel] is exempt from the command of making the Festival Pilgrimage [Pesachim 8b]. We cannot apply the pasuk “no man will covet your land” to such a person.
This seems grossly unfair. Why should someone be exempt from “being seen by HaShem [G-d]” (mitzvas Re’iyah) just because he does not own real estate? Is the Torah discriminating against the poor? What is the connection between going up three times a year and owning land?
Furthermore, the pasuk uses a strange expression: “Three times in the year, all males should appear before the Master (haAdon), Hashem…” The phrase “Adon Hashem” is a very uncommon expression. In fact, the only other place in Chumash where this expression is used is in Parshas Mishpatim [23:17], again in connection with this same mitzvah of going up to Yerushalayim on the Festivals.
The Sforno in Parshas Mishpatim says that the use of the word “Adon” alludes to the fact that HaShem is also the Master of the Land, as it is written “For all the Land belongs to Me” [Shemos 19:5]. In other words, in the final analysis, the Ribbono shel Olam [Master of the World] owns everything.
Through this Sforno, we can understand a new insight into the mitzvah of Aliyah l’regel, going up to Jerusalem on the holidays. The mitzvah is not merely to go up to Yerushalayim and have a Yom Tov in the presence of and under the influence of the Beis Hamikdash, the Temple. The purpose of the mitzvah is to emphasize that I can leave my house, my land and my property unattended and not worry about them. Why can I do that? Because, ultimately, they are not mine. I should worry about this land? It is not mine to worry about — it is HaShem’s land. He will worry about it. He will take care of it.
When a person returns a rental car, he merely drives up to the return stand, drops off the keys and drives away. Does he need to worry about what will happen to the car? Avis worries about that! It is not your car. It is their car.
So too, when the Jewish people go to Yerushalayim for the Festivals, not worrying about the land is a means of testifying that HaShem is the Master of the Land, and He will take care of it.
Consequently, one who does not have land, can not participate in this mitzvah, because he cannot demonstrate this confidence in HaShem’s ownership of the land through his traveling to Yerushalayim.
The Torah emphasizes this same concept through the Mitzvah of Shmita, the Mitzvah of Yovel, and other Mitzvos. All teach the same lesson — we are not the “baale-bos”. A person’s beautiful home, on top of the hill, is not really his, because ‘All the Land belongs to Me’.
Others Won’t Covet Our Land If They Recognize That Our Land Is Special
Why will we not have to worry that our land and property will be taken while we are away? On a simple level, we understand that HaShem, in fact, performs a miracle. The reason why no one will covet our land is because HaShem will miraculously see to it that such coveting will not take place during this time.
However, the Mikdash Mordechai suggests that perhaps this phenomenon is not a miracle. So how else can we explain this guarantee? How can HaShem provide such an assurance without a miracle? The Mikdash Mordechai explains how such an assurance can be made without a miracle, based on an Ibn Ezra.
The Ibn Ezra teaches a principle in Chumash on the pasuk in the Aseres HaDibros [Ten Commandments] “Thou Shalt Not Covet” [Shemos 20:14]. Everyone asks, ‘How can the Torah legislate emotions?’. How can the Torah tell me not to be jealous if, in fact, I am jealous?
The Ibn Ezra explains that the reason why a person is jealous of his neighbor’s house or his neighbor’s car or his neighbor’s wife is because he believes that he is really entitled to that house or car or wife. The Ibn Ezra points out that the villager does not desire the daughter of the King. He has no expectation to marry into the royal family and consequently does not think about taking the King’s daughter for his wife. We do not covet the Crown Jewels of England. That is out of our league.
This, says the Ibn Ezra, is what the Torah expects from us regarding the commandment of “Do Not Covet”. When we see someone else’s car or house, we should tell ourselves — “I have no relationship to that”. Just like I do not covet the Crown Jewels, I do not covet my neighbor’s house. It is his house. He needs it. HaShem gave it to him. I have no relationship to it.
The Mikdash Mordechai explains that this too is the reason why the pasuk says ‘no man will covet your land’. If we go up on the Festival, and fulfill the mitzvos with all their implications, then we will reach this wonderful level that we as Jews will understand that all the Land (and everything in it) belongs to HaShem. We are not the owners. We accept however HaShem chooses to distribute His property.
If we reach that wonderful level, other nations will not desire our land either, because they will look at us and recognize that we are special. They will recognize that our land is, in fact, special — that our land is not like their land and that they can never hope to have a claim on our land, any more than we can have a claim to the Crown Jewels. By reaching the high spiritual level attained by spending the Festival under the influence of the Beis Hamikdash, we are putting ourselves in a different league and consequently “no man will covet our land”.
Oleh (aliyah) l’Regel — One who goes up (going up) to Jerusalem for the Festival
Mitzvas Re’iyah — command to be Seen by G-d on the Festival
Baale-bos — contraction to ba’al habayis (owner of the house), meaning the one in charge.
Personalities and Sources
Rav Ovadia Sforno — (1470-1550); Rome and Bolgna, Italy; classic Chumash commentary.
Rav Avraham Ibn Ezra — (1089-1164); Classic Spanish commentary on all of Torah.
Mikdash Mordechai — Rav Mordechai Ilan, contemporary, Israel.
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Yerushalayim.
This write-up was adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tape series on the weekly Torah portion. The complete list of halachic topics covered in this series for Parshas Ki Sisa are provided below:
- Tape # 046 – Dealing with Illness on Shabbos
- Tape # 089 – Returning From Medical Emergency on Shabbos.
- Tape # 137 – The Census: Can Jews be Counted?
- Tape # 184 – You and Seriously Ill: How Much Responsibility
- Tape # 230 – The Mitzvah of Shekalim and Davening Mussaf
- Tape # 274 – Saying Tehillim at Night
- Tape # 320 – The Melacha of Dyeing
- Tape # 364 – The Melacha of Memachek
- Tape # 408 – Fax Machines on Shabbos
- Tape # 452 – Kiddush Shabbos Morning
- Tape # 496 – Tallis: Bringing It Home On Shabbos
- Tape # 540 – Machatzis Hashekel
Tapes or a complete catalogue can be ordered from:
Yad Yechiel Institute
PO Box 511
Owings Mills, MD 21117-0511
Call (410) 358-0416 for further information.
Also Available: Mesorah / Artscroll has published a collection of Rabbi Frand’s essays. The book is entitled:
and is available through your local Hebrew book store or from Project Genesis, 1-410-654-1799.