• Maverick (Avigdor) Peters

Parshas Behar 2018: Take A Step Back

Torah commentaries will often take a step back from the details of a section and compare the section itself to other sections in the Torah. They will try and understand why each sub-parsha was placed where it is to learn more and get a better idea of the bigger picture.

The name of the parsha this week is Behar. Behar translates to “on the mountain (Sinai)”.

Many mitzvos (commandments) were taught by Hashem at Har Sinai and one of those mitzvos is the shemittah year.

The shemittah year, is a one in every seventh year “rest” from farm-related work. The passuk states, “Six years you may sow your field…. but in the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath of complete rest….” (Leviticus 25:3-4). Just like we have a Shabbos at the end of every seven days and honor it by refraining from work, Hashem ordained a sabbatical year at the end of every seven years where we are forbidden to work the fields. In this year of rest, one relies solely on Hashem in a greater way than usual because we cannot even make use of our own hishtadlus (effort) for sustenance. The laws of shemittah are rather extensive as they describe what is permitted and prohibited regarding produce that comes up naturally from the Earth (as it bares holiness).

The Torah in its teachings will not only discusses topics at face value but many times it will even be teaching us deeper lessons by the juxtaposition of two seemingly random topics. For instance, Rashi points out the reason why the mentioning of Har Sinai and the laws of shemittah are back-to-back is to teach us one very fundamental concept; the Torah was given at Har Sinai, period. Rashi is expressing it wasn’t just the ten commandments or the written-Torah, it was the written and oral-Torah in all its glory. Each and every detail of each mitzvah was taught and discussed with Moshe at Har Sinai.

Interestingly enough, the mitzvah to follow the mitzvah of shemittah is the prohibition of “ribbis”, charging interest. A Jew is not allowed to charge another Jew interest on a loan.

Now what could possibly be the underlying connection between shemittah and the charging of interest?

The shemittah year was designed to remind the nation that the land in which they toil is but a gift from Hashem. The prohibition of ribbis is also a reminder, that the money we possess is also just a gift from Hashem. Everything that makes up a man and all his possessions are gifted to him by his Creator.

Sometimes we need to take a step back to get a better view. We need to thank Hashem! We need to thank Him for our physical gifts, we need to thank Him for our heath, we need to thank Him for our spiritual gifts, we need to thank Him, we need to thank Him, we need to thank Him.

Have a wonderful Shabbos and weekend!

Maverick V. Peters

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