Wednesday, May 17, 2006

 

This week's Haftara--amazing timing--a must-read!

Parshas Behar-Bechukosai
Yirmiyahu 16:19
by Rabbi Dovid Siegel


This week's haftorah teaches us a profound lesson
in trust and faith in
Hashem. The prophet Yirmiyahu introduces the
haftorah by
proclaiming, "Hashem is my strength, my
stronghold, my refuge in the day
of trouble." Yirmiyahu proceeds and admonishes
the Jewish people for
pursuing foreign avenues and engaging in strange
practices for security.
He warns them that they are subject to forfeiting
their wealth and
possessions because of their public involvement
in idolatry.

He then delivers a crushing blow in the name of
Hashem and says, "And you
will forsake your land which you are to blame for
mistreating the
inheritance I gave you and you will be enslaved
to your enemies in a
foreign land."(17:4) This is the dreadful
prophecy about their pending
exile from their precious homeland, Eretz
Yisroel. Yet, Yirmiyahu devotes
his attention to one specific detail as the cause
of their exile. He
immediately follows with serious reprimand about
trust and says, "Cursed
is the person who trusts in man...and turns his
heart away from Hashem...
Blessed is the person who trusts in Hashem." The
juxtaposition of these
words suggests that the Jewish exile was caused
by lack of trust.
Apparently, the previous criticism of mistreating
the land related to this
fault. Rashi develops this and explains that the
admonition referred to
their failure to properly observe Shmita laws.
Yirmiyahu chastised them
for mistreating their inheritance by refusing to
return it to its true
owner during Shmita.

This explanation requires serious reflection.
Although the mitzvah of
Shmita is undoubtedly significant, it seems to be
treated with extreme
severity. The prophet equates lack of Shmita
observance with total lack of
faith in Hashem. This suggests that one who does
not properly adhere to
Shmita laws has no trust and faith in Hashem!?
This is difficult to digest
after considering the severe demands of Shmita.
During that year, one may
not exert any effort towards his personal
sustenance and livelihood.
Hashem demands that one place his total faith and
trust in Him. If one
does not achieve this lofty level and fails to
display total faith can he
be compared to an agnostic possessing no faith?

We can raise similar concern regarding the
repercussions of profiting from
Shmita fruit. In addition to Shmita's
agricultural prohibition one is
prohibited from engaging in any profitable
transaction with fruit grown
during the Shmita year. The Talmud predicts the
severe hardships one will
endure for violating this prohibition. His first
repercussion will be his
sale of all his fields and possessions. This
process could continue and
include the sale of his home and eventually even
result in the sale of his
daughter as a maid servant. (see Kiddushin 20a)
These punishments seem
extremely severe relative to their offense. There
are many grave sins
whose consequences are trivial in comparison to
those of Shmita
violations. What establishes Shmita so
significant as to warrant these
responses?

We can shed light on this entire subject through
the Malbim's classic
commentary on this week's haftorah. He explains
that the prophet discusses
three approach to one's faith in Hashem.
Yirmiyahu showers praise and
blessing upon one who places his total trust in
Hashem. Although this
person undoubtedly involves himself in securing
his sustenance he realizes
that Hashem is ultimately his true provider. A
second prevalent attitude
comes from those of dual allegiance, who place
their trust in Hashem and
in their personal efforts. Although this is
certainly not a supreme form
of service and doesn't receive words of praise it
is nonetheless
acceptable. There exists yet a third attitude
amongst some, one that is
totally unacceptable and condemned by the
prophet. Yirmiyahu curses one
who places total trust in his personal
involvement without even including
Hashem as a factor in the equation. This person
totally disregards
Hashem's involvement and believes that he obtains
success and fortune
exclusively through personal efforts.

These insightful words place the mitzvah of
Shmita in its proper
perspective. Every seventh year Hashem reminds us
that He is constantly
involved in our lives and sustenance. Hashem
facilitates this recognition
by restricting us from personal involvement in
our livelihood for an
entire year. One who adheres to Shmita's
restrictions clearly demonstrates
his total faith in Hashem as his provider.
However, one who violates
Shmita's laws shows his total belief and trust in
his personal efforts.
Hashem absolutely banned these efforts during
that year and will
undoubtedly have no part in helping them bear
fruits. Such activity
reflects a defiant attitude that Hashem need not
be involved for one to
succeed. He expresses to all that irrespective of
Hashem's approval or
involvement these efforts will nevertheless
produce as usual.

This totally unacceptable attitude inevitably
engages Hashem in a clear
demonstration that all sustenance and provisions
are ultimately His doing.
Hashem's response to such misguided individuals
will be to gradually force
them to sell their possessions in exchange for
basic sustenance. This
process helps them realize that all possessions
come from Hashem and that
He is their sole provider. A similar response
will be given to the Jewish
people when they display this defiant attitude.
Hashem will remind them
that He controls their lives and not themselves.
Their failure to observe
Shmita laws will cause them to forfeit their
privilege of living in Eretz
Yisroel, the land of Divine Providence.
Conceivably whoever merits to live
in Eretz Yisroel should sense Hashem's closeness
and direct involvement in
every step of their lives. If the entire nation
fails to recognize this
reality it truly has nothing to gain from
dwelling in the king's palace.
Hashem will therefore banish the people from His
presence until they
recognize and learn to appreciate His active role
in their lives.

If we could only internalize this lesson our
lives would be so much
better. May we soon merit to return to our
father's table with His full
return to His people in the nearest future.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rabbi Dovid Siegel

Kollel Toras Chaim
Kiryat Sefer, Israel
E-mail: rdsiegel@torah.org

Haftorah, Copyright ? 2006 by Rabbi Dovid Siegel
and Torah.org. The author
is Rosh Kollel (Dean) of Kollel Toras Chaim,
Kiryat Sefer, Israel.

Rabbi Siegel's topic-of-interest lectures are
available through Kollel
Toras Chesed's Tape of the Month Club.

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Comments:
Please visit http://shemittahrediscovered.blogspot.com/. Please read the initial posts of September 2005 onwards. I have not posted lately only because I have been too busy trying to lobby Rebbetzin Jungreis and the Rabbanim to make a statement about the Covenant which is a direct contradiction to the Convergence plan. I believe that the key to the tikkun would be that the Rabbanim take a stand for Eretz Yisroel which is the Tikkun of the Miraglim. Shemittah is truly a revolutionary Mitzva and very scary since it would involve political, economic and social upheaval. However, given today's occurrences of Man made and Natural disasters and the threat of nuclear, biological and/or chemical warfare, keeping Shemittah is perhaps not so scary in comparison. Can I post your article on my blog? I'd be interested in any comments.
 
I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who felt the timing to be other-worldly.
 
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