Parashat B'har

The Mitzvah of Shemitah

The concept of the sabbatical year reveals the awesome splendor of God's earth.

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On this verse, Rav Simcha Meir Cohen of Dvinsk (Eastern Europe, 1843-1926), in his book Meshech Chochmah, explains that God wanted the Children of Israel to experience the Divine Speech flowing through Moses' mouth, drawing even inanimate objects towards His Will. The intention was for them to "see that which is heard" in a similar manner to the awesome revelation at Mount Sinai where "the entire people saw the Voices (Exodus 20:25)."

This incomprehensible act would significantly strengthen the people's faith in God's Providence over all. As a manifestation of this new-found faith, they would also understand that the Holy Land which they were about to enter is not a land that is conquered, used, and abused by the sticks wielded by humans. Rather, the Land of Israel is a celestial land which will pour forth its abundant blessing according to the divine prayers spilling from the lips of the Jewish people, a people who are sensitive and respectful to the needs and nature of all God's creation. 

Moses, possibly shaken by the death of his dear sister and frustrated with the complaints of the people, tragically strikes the rock. God rebukes Moses and Aaron and says "because you did not have faith in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the Children of Israel, therefore you will not bring this congregation to the Land that I have given them (Numbers 20:12)."

Because they failed to express to the people the sanctity of a proper relationship with the Land based on pure faith in God and not human strength, they could not lead the people in.

Awareness of Sinai

When the Torah introduces Shemitah, it begins: "God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai saying (Leviticus 25:1)." Rashi asks: "Why is Shemitah mentioned [specifically] by Mount Sinai? Were not all the mitzvot said at Sinai?"

In truth, living a life of Shemitah consciousness is a constant reenactment of the receiving of the Torah at Sinai. God gave us the Torah so that we could sanctify and reveal the Truth of all of creation through passionate and dedicated observance of mitzvot.

And so, when we come to proper relationship with the earth and give it rest and respect through the mitzvot of the Shemitah year, the awesome splendor of the earth's divinity is revealed. The sensitive eyes of the caring and enlightened individual will be opened to the radiance of the Divine Speech flowing through all of creation, as it slowly but surely brings the world closer to its perfected state.

Suggested Action Item:

Reduce one beef meal per week, and replace it with a vegetarian dish, kosher organic chicken, or sustainable fish.

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Noam Yehuda Sendor is studying for rabbinic ordination at the Bat Ayin Yeshiva in Israel.