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Shabbat Parashat Behar 5774

Parashat Hashavua: Belief and Reliance

Harav Yosef Carmel

The Shemitta year is approaching, and there is a need to prepare ourselves halachically and practically. Parashat Behar is a great time to do so, as it contains the most complete treatment within the Torah of the topic. Besides teaching the basic halachot, the Torah also promises that keeping the Torah’s precepts will enable us to live in the Land securely and enjoy a great deal of its produce (Vayikra 25:18-19).

In order to fulfill the mitzva of Shemitta, one must have a high level of belief in Hashem. The Torah, though, allows us to ask the pertinent question: “What will we eat in the seventh year?” (ibid. 20). The answer is that Hashem will give enough produce in the sixth year to last for three years (ibid. 21). This will ensure the viability of the economy. While this appears to be asking the people to rely on a miracle, it is not so, as the tri-year growth takes place before the seventh year, and the refraining from sowing starts thereafter.

Most Rishonim posit that the promise of extra produce applies only when the obligation to keep Shemitta is of a Torah level, and the great majority of poskim posit that nowadays the obligation to keep Shemitta is only Rabbinic. Therefore, in our days there is no promise of extra produce.

This has caused a difficult situation. While there is a desire to keep the laws of Shemitta fully even when they are only Rabbinic, as we are careful to keep all Rabbinic laws, the leaders of the last generations looked for ways to ensure the survival of the people and the State of Israel while impacting the laws of Shemitta minimally. Unfortunately, the only way to do this on a national level is by selling the fields of Eretz Yisrael to non-Jews. The sale is temporary, and it helps us survive while not violating the laws of Shemitta at a time when there is no Divine promise. The obligation to find solutions that are responsive to the community as a whole was the approach of Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook and his students, prominent among them was our mentor, Rav Shaul Yisraeli. This solution creates a need to study the laws of Shemitta and Yovel seriously, with the hope that we will soon be able to fulfill them in their entirety, on the Torah level and with the Divine promise.

Let us begin the study right away, as it a symbol of the mitzvot in general. After all, the introduction to these halachot, “Hashem told Moshe at Mt. Sinai,” prompted the Rabbis to comment that all the mitzvot were given, in their general precept and their specifics details, at Sinai.

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