Thursday, May 10, 2007

Parshas Behar / Bechukosai

וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל-משֶׁה, בְּהַר סִינַי לֵאמר. דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם, כִּי תָבאוּ אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי נתֵן לָכֶם--וְשָׁבְתָה הָאָרֶץ, שַׁבָּת לַיהוָה.

"Ad-noy spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai, saying; Speak to Bnei Yisroel and say to them, when you come to the land which I give to you the land shall be at rest---a Shabbos for Ad-noy." (Sefer Vayikra, 25:1-2)

Rashi (c.v. Shabbos Lashem) tells us that this rest of the land (Shmittah) has to be "L'Sheim Hashem"; namely, that even though the land benefits and becomes strengthened from resting one out of seven years, one should only do the Mitzvah because it is a command from Hashem and not because of this benefit to the land. However, the Ibn Ezra here tells us that the "Shabbos Lashem" should be "K'yom HaShabbos/like the day of Shabbos." He goes on to explain that it should be like Shabbos in that it should be set aside for learning Torah (see Talmud Yerushalmi, Shabbos, 16); just as Shabbos is set aside for learning, so too, Shmittah should be a year set aside for learning.

The Chida wonders why Shmittah is in the 7th year; ostensibly the year of resting the land could be on any year of a 7 year cycle. He quotes the Gemara (Shabbos 35b) that tells us that people would work every Nissan and Tishrei so that the rest of their year would be set aside from learning Torah. Thus, after 6 years there would be a total of 12 months which they had been working; thus, the 7th year would make up for those 12 months which had been lost from the previous 6.

However, the Divrei Yoel says that there were only a small, fortunate, few that would actually only work 2 months out of the year. In reality, the majority of people were forced to work all year round to make enough money for survival. Nevertheless, when the 7th year would come, everyone would go and spend the year learning. Thus, the only time that all of Klal Yisrael was learning was in the Shmittah year. He explains that it was only through the added Koach of those who hadn't had time to learn the previous 6 years but are now doing so that those who learned 10 months out of the year could properly make up for their 2 months a year that were lost. Seemingly, without the added merits of those who worked full time, the two months a year in which the full-timers were working would not properly be rectified.

The message from all of this, I believe, is that it's never too late for Torah. Many people are too busy, for whatever reason, to learn much during the week. This, as we saw from the Ibn Ezra, is the purpose of Shabbos. But, there are those that for whatever reason may not learn for years on end. We see, though, from Shmittah that it doesn't matter if you haven't learned for the past 6 years; it's not too late to set aside time for Torah.

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