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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tisa | 5768

The Brave of Strength Who Do His Will

Parshat HaShavuah

Harav Yosef Carmel


The pasuk that opens the section of our parasha that deals with the Jewish holidays reads as follows: “Six days you shall work and on the seventh day you shall cease; in the plow and the harvest you shall cease” (Shemot 34:21). Generations of rabbis have disputed the meaning of the second half of the pasuk. Rabbi Akiva said that stress of the agricultural tasks identifies the subject matter as the Shemitta year, teaching us that one should start and finish the year’s observances before and after the year, respectively. R. Yishmael understands that like the beginning of the pasuk, the end is also talking about the day of Shabbat, teaching us that one type of harvesting, the cutting of the grain for the korban ha’omer on the 16th of Nissan, is permitted even when it falls on Shabbat.

While Rashi brings both explanations, the Rashbam explains the whole pasuk regarding Shabbat. The reason, he says, that plowing and harvesting are specified among the melachot is to tell us that even basic needs may not be seen to on Shabbat. We might have otherwise thought that melacha on Shabbat was permitted not only to save a life but also for crucial needs.

The Seforno connects the two parts of the pasuk differently. The Torah tells us that just as keeping one day of Shabbat helps bring success to the work on the six days of the week, so too does refraining from working the field one year out of seven bring blessing to the other six years.

We now find ourselves in the midst of the Shemitta year. It is thus important to strengthen our resolve to follow it as appropriate and understand the message behind it. The challenge for the farmer to keep the laws properly is very difficult. The Torah, after all, expects Bnei Yisrael to ask, “What shall we eat in the seventh year?” and answers that “I will command my blessing to you in the sixth year, and it will produce for the three years” (Vayikra 25:20-21). Chazal greatly praised the farmers who kept the laws of Shemitta, applying to them the pasuk (Tehillim 103:20) “the brave of strength who do His Will” (Vayikra Rabba 1). The problem is that most poskim posit that the special blessing was promised only when the observance of Shemitta was mandated by Torah law (se S’ma 67:2 based on Tosafot). Therefore, over a century ago, efforts were made to make the year of Shemitta observance one that the population could handle. Three halachic solutions that exist are the heter mechira, use of otzar beit din, and development of systems of growing such as matza menutak (planting detached from the ground). See our teshuva (in Bemareh Habazak III) which was signed by Rav Yisraeli z.t.l. in this regard.

Let’s hope we will soon merit keeping the laws of Shemitta on a Torah level in the most careful way possible when we will be in a state where “the rest of the land” can be established in all of its sanctity in the Holy Land.

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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of

R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld


 Hemdat Yamim is endowed by Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois in loving memory of

Max and Mary Sutker

 and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.

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