Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshios Behar-Bechukosai

This evening I attended an incredible shiur by R' Mansour and arrived home quite late. I cannot use the shiur for the Thursday Night post as it was not on the parsha. (I do intend to iyh blog about the shiur at a later date). Rather than let the week go without a parsha vort I have reproduced a prior year's thought from R' Frand. Same rules as usual apply - the vort was reproduced to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

Parshas Behar (Vaykira 25:1-8) begins with a discussion of the laws of Shmitta, when the land is left fallow every seventh year. Following the discussion of Shmitta, the Torah then discusses the laws of Yovel (Vayikra 25:9-13) when the ancestral fields return to their owners and the fields are also left unworked. After this discussion, the Torah ventures into discussions about various areas of civil law (Vayikra 25:14-18) before returning to the topic of Shmitta and anticipating that there may be questions - what will there be to eat in the Shmitta year (Vayikra 25:19-22)? The Torah answers by reassuring the farmer, as Hashem states that He will bless the land so that the produce of the sixth year of the cycle will be so abundant that it will last three years.

Rabbi Frand then quoted a question from the Noam Elimelech (who asked in the name of his brother) - If the Torah does not waste words, why would the Torah state - if you ask where will be food, this is the brocha Hashem will give? Wouldn't it be more logical to simply state outright - Hashem will give a brocha of abundance for the sixth year? Furthermore, why is the promise made (and Shmitta revisited) after the discussion of various other topics?

Rabbi Frand answered by making reference to the sefer Abir Ya'akov (R' Ya'akov Yosef Reinman), who teaches that the mitzva of Shmitta involves a great deal of bitachon (faith). A person will farm his land for six years and think that all of his wealth comes from his own efforts. Thus Hashem says - don't work the seventh year; trust that I will take care of you, since it all comes from Me. The Torah then continues to other topics, before returning to Shmitta. However at this juncture, Hashem is saying - there are some among you who will follow Shmitta because I commanded it above. However, there will be others who are weaker and cannot follow the rule on blind faith. Hashem anticipates their questions/concerns and promises that they will be provided for with the abundant sixth year crop. This comes as a separate discussion because the question and promise is not a direct part of the mitzva of Shmitta. Hashem is saying later, if there are those with questions, don't worry, I will take care of them.

Rabbi Frand then asked - where do we see any other mitzva where someone who lacks faith is given a 3x reward in exchange? By comparison, there is no promise of a triple pay reward for someone who takes off and does not work on Shabbos. However, not working Shabbos also requires faith as many learned in the early part of the 20th century when the mantra was "If you don't come to work on Saturday, don't come in on Monday either."

Rabbi Frand again made reference to the Abir Yosef to answer this question. He noted that Shmitta is a greater test than Shabbos. During a regular week, one will refrain from work on Shabbos. However, Shmitta is refraining from work for an entire year. For a person in an agrarian economy, he is wondering where the food will come from if he does not work. With this form of test, Hashem tells those who question - yes there will be food, you will not starve.

Rabbi Frand then began to discuss Parshas Bechukosai which begins with the phrase "Im Bechukosai Taylaychu" - if you keep my laws. Rashi translates this as "if you learn Torah." Later in the parsha, the Torah state "V'im lo tishm'u li" - if you don't listen to Me (26:14). Rashi translates this as - "if you don't learn Torah." Much later in the parsha the Torah reaches the topic of Shmitta again stating at Vayikra 26:34 that the land will "appease its Shmitta years during the years of desolation." Rashi states on the following pasuk (Vayikra 26:35) that the years of Galus Bavel came as a direct result of the Jews not keeping the laws of Shmitta/Yovel at all while they were in Israel before the Galus.

Rabbi Frand then asked what the connection was between Shmitta and the Galus (in my words Mah Inyan Shmitta Eitzel HaTochacha)? And furthermore, how is it possible that they did not keep Shmitta the entire time that they were in Israel?

Rabbi Frand answered by quoting R' Ya'akov Kaminetzky that Behar Becukosai is one long parsha. It begins with a discussion on Shmitta. It then goes off on numerous tangents, until it reaches Bechukosai and returns to the discussion of Shmitta. How? It tells us that the year of Shmitta is a year when the land is not worked and the people are learning Torah instead. "If you listen" and while not working learn Torah - there will be great reward. If you don't listen and don't take the year off to learn, then there will be problems and the land will kick you out. This is the meaning of the statement that the Jews did not keep Shmitta - the Jews did not stop and learn during the Shmitta year as Hashem wanted them to do.

Rabbi Frand then told a story about one of the boys who used to learn in his shiur. The boy eventually left Ner Israel and got a job with T Rowe Price. The company later announced that it was laying off 200+ workers in Baltimore, including this boy. The boy came to Yeshiva to talk to Rabbi Frand the next day. Rabbi Frand indicated that he tried to console the boy about the job, but the bochur did not want to be consoled. Instead, he said that he was being paid eight weeks severance and was wondering whether he could learn in Rabbi Frand's shiur while he was being paid the severance.

Rabbi Frand closed by saying that this is the meaning of time off. That when a person is getting a paid vacation (like the Shmitta year) he should be sitting and learning Torah. If one follows this task, he can be mikayaim "Im Bechukosai Taylaychu."

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