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Tuesday, Iyar 13, 5784 / May 21, 2024 (28th day of the Omer)


This week’s Parsha is Behar,one Parsha before the last in the Book of Leviticus.


The Parsha begins with the commandment of the Sabbatical year (Shemitah): “When you will come into The Land, which I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath-rest unto G-d. Six years you shall sow your field and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its produce. But in the seventh year a Sabbath of solemn rest shall be for the land, a Sabbath unto G-d.”


The Torah continues, “If you will say, ‘What will we eat in the seventh year? We did not sow, nor gather in our produce?” To this question G-d answers, “I will command My blessing upon you in the sixth year and it shall bring forth produce for the three years.”


During the Shemitah (seventh) year whatever grew in one’s field was not exclusively theirs. It was free for everyone to take, even to the animals. 


This mitzvah applies in Israel to this day.  A field, owned by a Jew, must rest every seventh year.  The seventh year is a holy year – a year of rest, like Shabbat, which is a holy day of rest.


Although, the year of rest comes after the six years of work in the field, the Torah begins with the seventh year of rest. “When you will come into The Land, which I give you, The Land shall keep a Sabbath-rest unto G-d”.  Only afterwards does the Torah tell us about the first six years of work.  


Q.   Why does the Torah begin with the seventh year of rest, before the first six years of work? 


A.  There is a very important lesson in this. Before a person undertakes any work and business venture, they must know their goal and purpose. So too, the Torah tells us that before starting the six working years, we must know the goal for all this work - the goal is, the Sabbatical year, when we dedicate ourselves completely to the service of G-d.  With this attitude, even the six working years are raised to a higher sphere.  The spirit of this mitzvah, knowing that the goal for material success is for spiritual success, is true not only for a Jewish farmer, but also for the professional, for the worker and businessman.  Thus, all our physical work gets elevated to a much higher level.


Q.   What is the reason for the mitzvah of Shemitah?


A.   The Torah says, “When you come into The Land which I give you, The Land shall keep a Sabbath-rest unto G-d.”  Like resting on Shabbat is to give testimony that G-d created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, so too, every seventh year is a year in which a Jew gives testimony that The Land is a gift from G-d (“which I give you”). G-d commanded us to dedicate every seventh year to the service of G-d.  It reminds us that our physical work and our physical success should not be a goal unto itself, rather a means toward a higher objective – to study Torah and serve G-d.