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May 29th, 2016
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Torah Parsha


Parshat Behar - Difficulties, Faith and the Mountain

Parshat Behar - Difficulties, Faith and the Mountain

We all face difficulties. In fact we always face difficulties. Is there anyone out there in cyberspace reading this who can claim they have not a single difficulty in their lives? I doubt it.

This morning I received an email from someone overseas which was the exact opposite of what we expected to hear. After being assured over the past two months not to worry, a possibly insurmountable problem was dumped into our laps. It was one of those, “Sorry, I know I promised and kept promising and although I could have told you two months ago when there were many options, now that it’s too late, I admit I lied and there is nothing I can do.”

I am sure we’ve all had those as well. And as I pondered the situation, I realized that any solution I could imagine at this point would not solve the problem. Any solution I could imagine would be a combination of very costly band aids. In the end no one would be happy, everyone would be pressed and we would be left bearing the cost and the blame.”

But at that moment I smiled and recalled our class yesterday morning where we were discussing the opening words of the portion we read: Hashem spoke to Moshe on Har Sinai..."the land shall rest… it will be a Shabbat for Hashem"

Someone raised the question which I pointed out that Rashi asks: Why is it necessary for the Torah which is sparing with words to mention that the misva of shemita, the sabbatical year, was taught at Har Sinai? Weren’t all the misvot given there?

Rashi answers that the Rabbis derive from here that not only were the general principles of all the misvot taught at Sinai, but, all of their fine details were given then.

But a question remains, why of all the misvot in the Torah was shemita singled out? How does the misvah of shemita relate to Sinai?

It is important to remember that our fathers and mothers, our ancestors, the parents of our parents (and our very own souls) stood at Mount Sinai and heard Hashem speak experiencing national revelation. Sometimes we forget and imagine that Hashem spoke only to Moses, but the Torah tells us again and again that Hashem appeared and spoke to everyone, some 3 million people.

Maimonides writes in the Mishna Torah: “What then were the grounds of believing Him? The revelation on Sinai which we saw with our own eyes, and heard with our own ears, not having to depend on the testimony of others...”

We read three times in Devarim, in Moses final speech to the people:

‘Hashem spoke to you from the midst of the fire, you were hearing the sound of words, but you were not seeing a form, only a sound. He told you of His covenant, instructing you to keep the Ten Commandments, and He inscribed them on two stone tablets.'

'You have been shown in order to know that Hashem, He is the Supreme Being. There is none besides Him. From heaven he let you hear His voice in order to teach you, and on earth He showed you His great fire, and you heard His words amid the fire.'

Moses called all of Israel and said to them: ‘ Hashem your G-d sealed a covenant with us at Horev [Mount Sinai]. Not with our forefathers did Hashem seal this covenant, but with us ― we who are here, all of us alive today. Face to face did Hashem speak with you on the mountain from amid the fire.'

Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith writes: “Throughout history, tens of thousands of religions have been started by individuals, attempting to convince people that God spoke to him or her. All religions that base themselves on some type of revelation share essentially the same beginning: a holy person goes into solitude, comes back to his people, and announces that he has experienced a personal revelation where God appointed him to be His prophet… Judaism is the only religion in the annals of history that makes the best of all claims ― that everyone heard God speak. No other religion claims the experience of national revelation… (Because) … A national revelation ― as opposed to personal revelation ― is the one lie you cannot get away with. It is one event you cannot fabricate. The only way to make this claim is if it actually happened.”

Sinai is the basis of our faith in Hashem.

And nothing tests our faith as much as the Sabbatical year where Hashem commanded us to let our fields lie fallow every seventh year. I suggested that conceptually one might imagine nothing more difficult than the act of sacrificing a child, but as we see in our crazy world that act often comes in a moment of religious fervor and after the act delusion. But for a farmer to give up his livelihood and land for an entire year is a tremendous leap of faith. Its not just a moments act. How will he support his family? Day after day, month after month the farmer must look Heavenward for his sustenance. And in reality it’s not just one year, it’s more like two and at the Yovel, its three. This is a life where we completely submit to our trust in the Almighty.

Conceptually, the Sabbatical year is a powerful reminder that Hashem created this world from nothing in six days and rested on the seventh. Just as creation is an act of Hashem so is everything. Working the field day after day, one may begin to put faith in his own hands, in his irrigation system, in the seeds, it the fertilizer, in the magic of nature and forget G-d. But then we are asked to be reminded in the most powerful of ways by abstaining from farming activities and relinquishing possession of the land to the Creator for a full year.

“What will I eat”? Don’t worry !

I have heard it said that this is the aim of shemita. Through the Sabbatical year we hope to achieve the level of faith and trust that we reached at Har Sinai.

Still where does one get the super human strength to live these laws? Perhaps it is because our ancestors and our souls first experienced that belief when we stood at Sinai. Perhaps it is this that enables a farmer despite all the challenges and hardships, to properly observe shemita every seventh year. We know that Hashem spoke to us and has a direct relationship with us. We remember hearing, “I am Hashem your G-d.”

For the rest of us, the rabbi would teach us that the basis and starting point of faith and trust is the realization that all life only exist because and as Hashem wills it to, that every single and miniscule event in our lives are directly from Hashem and he is playing an active role in each of us individually.

We started with the fact that we each have difficulties, some seemingly impossible to overcome. What do we do? I believe that sometimes, some of those difficulties simply come to us to remind that it’s not “my power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me”. Sometimes it’s to remind us of our dependence upon Hashem. Sometimes there are events beyond our human power to control. Perhaps these events are coming as a direct and personalized message from Hashem.

Perhaps he is telling us, just as the farmer must reach back to Sinai, so must we. Just as the farmer must remember the words of Moses, so must we. And just as the farmer must have faith, so must we.

And that’s the plan!

Rabbi David Bibi


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This week’s portion begins with the command “Kedoshim Tihiyu - You shall be holy for holy am I, Hashem your G-d.” The obvious question is how does one define Kadosh and h...

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