Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Behar
To dedicate this lesson

Belief And Disbelief


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Our Sedra of B’Har begins with the Mitzva of Shmita (which is fast approaching here in Israel!). Rashi asks why it is davka this Mitzva - of leaving the land untouched every seventh year - that is said to have been given on Mount Sinai. Rashi offers the cryptic answer: "Just as this commandment was said on Har Sinai, so ALL the Mitzvot emanate from there (as opposed to being man-made)."

Okay, fair enough. But I still don’t see why Shmita has to be the Mitzva that represents all the other Mitzvot. Why not choose kashrut, Shabbat, love the convert, etc? What is it exactly about Shmita that makes it so special?

The usual answer to this question is that observing Shmita requires a great deal of Emuna, faith. After all, doing without one’s field in an agricultural society & counting on Hashem to provide for up to three years requires a lot of faith. And so, by extension, performing any Mitzva is, essentially, an act of faith.

But there is a variation on this theme that I think goes to the core of Shmita’s salient significance. Shmita is illogical; it is anti-social, it goes against the norms of economic activity. How can people just walk away from their livelihood for a whole year? How can they stop producing foodstuffs that the nation needs? Can you imagine if the Torah commanded us to cease all hi-tech activity for 12 months? Or ordered the police, hospitals or sewage/sanitation workers to walk off the job for a year?

And when you factor in the opinion of many agronomists that letting the land go fallow every 7 years does nothing to enrich its nutrients, it seems even more absurd!

So I suggest there are 2 objectives at work here: First, treat the land (of Israel) as a living thing! Respect it, nurture it, appreciate it. And just as we have our Shabbat, it has its own, as well. The lesson, by extension, is that all the Torah is Torat Chayim, a living Torah.

Moreover, accept the fact that if humans had created the Torah, they never would have invented Shmita! Only Hashem could command such an extreme & seemingly absurd directive. But that is precisely the point: Do not follow the Torah because it makes perfect sense to you (like, for example, the 7 Noachide mitzvot); follow it purely because it is G-d’s will. Tho it may rub against our intellectual sensibilities & humble us to do things that confound us, that is how all of the Mitzvot must be approached & why Shmita is the Mitzva par excellence.

The sublimation of OUR mortal wisdom to that of G-d, our steadfast belief even in the face of disbelief, is perhaps what causes Hashem, in turn, to ALSO do things that are beyond belief - such as keeping the Jewish People alive forever, and allowing us to return to and reclaim our ancient homeland. It's illogical, absurd, against every norm of history, and it certainly confounds our enemies.

But guess what? It works - we are here!
את המידע הדפסתי באמצעות אתר