"Torah Thoughts" is written by our Baal Korey (Torah Reader), Leibel Agar. For a complete collection of Leibel's "Torah Thoughts", contact the Synagogue Office at 914-965-7119 or send your request to Leibel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take a Break…Rest Yourself
And when you shall say ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year; our we have not planted and have not gathered in our bounty’. And I will command my blessing to you in the sixth year and your bounty will be enough for three years…Lev. 25:20-25:21)
This week’s Parsha presents the mitzvah of Shmittah. One of the laws regarding shmittah deals with farming. Working the land is forbidden (however, it is permitted to gather in the crops that grow by themselves). After mentioning this law, Hashem promises us that, even though we are not doing anything to grow food, there will not be a famine during the Shmittah year; the harvest of the 6th year will be sufficient for the sixth year, the seventh year, and the eighth year (since crops planted during the eighth year will take time to grow and become ready for harvesting). What is the aim of this commandment? I understand resting on the seventh day (since that is what Hashem did and we are, as discussed previously, supposed to emulate him)…but Hashem did not rest in the seventh year, so why are we told to?
In order to understand the purposes of Shmittah, we must examine what the Shmittah really represents. At its core, Shmittah is really the ultimate statement of Hashem’s existence and involvement in the world. If a human king were going to make laws for his country, those laws would reflect things that were in the king’s power to control. Any laws that reflected things outside the king’s control would cause anarchy or assassination. The fact that a blessed harvest in the 6th year is required to prevent hunger during the Shmittah (something that no human being could guarantee), means that it must be that whoever made that law has power to control how much (or how little) is produced during the harvests.
However, I would like to take this one step further. All too often, people believe in a Supreme Being that created the world but does not actually involve Himself in its ‘day-to-day’ functioning. They think that things happen because of their own involvement or because of some sort of luck. Keeping Shmittah requires the belief that Hashem involves Himself in the running of the world constantly (otherwise, how could people be sure there would be enough food to sustain them for that year). When we keep the Shmittah and receive the blessing of exceedingly bountiful harvests, we are creating a visible testimony to the fact that the world was not only created by Hashem; rather, we show that He created the world AND is involved with its function on a day-to-day (and individual) basis. May it be Hashem’s Will that, through the study of Torah and observance of its precepts, we reveal to the entire world that there IS a G-d and that He is constantly involved with the world that He created…Amen, Ken Yehi Ratzon
SHABBAT SHALOM U'MEVORACH
The Copper Altar that was in the Mishkan had a fire that could not be put out (Lo Sichbeh). Since the phrase ‘Lo Sichbeh’ is in two separate verses (6:5 and 6:6), we learn that a person who extinguishes the fire of the altar violates two negative commandments (Sifsei Chachamim). Why is it so important that the fire on the Altar never be extinguished? What is so special about this fire?
I believe that this passuk is teaching us something very important. The fire is more than just a fire; it represents passion and energy. In Judaism is not enough to “go through the motions”…to truly serve God, you need to show passion. The fire of the Altar was a constant reminder to the Jewish people to serve God with passion. All too often, things come up in our daily lives that, if left unchecked, can extinguish our passion for serving God. Just like the altar of the Mishkan was not permitted to be extinguished, so to we should not allow outside forces destroy the miniature fire that is inside all of us. May it be God’s Will that our study of Torah fan the spark inside us and help us serve God with passion.
Shabbat Shalom UMevorach