Illuminations #206, Iyar, 5779, Parshat Behar

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Illuminations #206, Iyar, 5779, Parshat Behar

Torah Gems

According to Jewish Law, every seventh year is a Shemittah year. Shemitah refers to the year that farmers in Eretz Yisrael do not work the land. This cycle continues seven times to a total of 49 years. The fiftieth year is called Yovel. On Yom Kippur of the Yovel year the shofar was sounded to announce that all Jewish slaves are free to go back home. One could ponder the significance of the mitzvah to blow the shofar.

The Sefer Hachinuch explains that many of the slave-owners faced a challenging test. They had gotten so used to their slaves helping them and being around them that it was hard to let them go. For this reason we blow the shofar to let each slave-owner know they were not alone in this test. Just knowing that others faced similar challenges made the transition much smoother and easier to do the mitzvah.

From this beautiful explanation we can discern a powerful message. A person gets so used to his surroundings that it becomes difficult to part with what he is used to. We see the importance to live in a place and have friends where he will be affected positively. A person’s surroundings shape his life.

Parsha Pearls

Parshas Behar tells us not to work the land for a full year every seven years. This is called the mitzvah of Shemittah. By observing the mitzvah one is promised that the food of the year before will satiate him throughout the rest of the year. However, if one is concerned how this would be, Hashem promises that his crop of the sixth year will produce enough for three years. The Dubno Maggid offers a wonderful insight into the two ways Hashem gives sustenance. There are two types of Bitachon (practically expressing one’s faith). One is complete trust that Hashem is running everything and I have nothing to worry about. With this Hashem sustains him on less food, enabling him to concentrate on other things and not be busy with the land. The second way is for a person who understands and wants to trust in Hashem, but he still has questions. For this Hashem promises to give him a lot, however he will still have to work the field three times as much. Both ways are exemplary, however we all strive to be the first way with a real trust that Hashem is running our daily lives.

Glimpses of Greatness

Once there were two people fighting over who owned a piece of land. They went to Rav Chaim of Volozhin, the Rosh Yeshiva of the famed Volozhiner yeshiva over 200 years ago. Rav Chaim promptly went to the land in question. He bent down to hear what the land itself had to say. He said the land wants to know why you are fighting, one day you will both belong to me! The men took the message and worked it out. From this we see the great importance of making peace and not getting caught in the frivolities of life.

Halacha Weekly

Q.  Is it permitted to leave Israel to study Torah if one already has a teacher in Israel? [II-3-50]

A. Avodah Zarah (13a) explains that a kohen is prohibited to leave Israel for the diaspora in order not to be defiled by the lands of the Nations.  Indeed, he can leave to study Torah or to marry a wife, and the Talmud brings that R. Yehudah holds that if one can find a place to learn in Israel he may not make himself impure by leaving the land (even to study Torah). R. Yosi says even in the time of the Temple one is permitted to leave to study in the impure lands,  because not every person merits to learn from every teacher. Rambam (Melachim 5-9), who prohibited one to leave except to study Torah, etc., holds like R. Yosi that it is not permitted to leave Israel for the Diaspora except to learn Torah or to marry a woman, and he must return immediately.

Radvaz writes there that the source of the Rambam is this Gemara. Kesef Mishneh adds that there is also the opinion which we have from R. Yosi that says even if there is someone [besides one’s teacher] in the Land of Israel to learn from one, may nevertheless leave after his teacher (if he leaves) to the Diaspora, because it is not always possible for a person to learn from every teacher.

Terumat HaDeshen (40) likewise rules that the  law follows R. Yosi, that it is permitted to leave to the Diaspora  in order to learn Torah, even though there is someone to learn from available in the Land of Israel, because not every person merits to learn from any teacher.  The Tashbetz (3-285, R. Shimon Ben Tzemach  Duran Z”L) writes that it is not permitted to leave the land except to learn Torah if he does not have anyone in the land who will teach him. And Peat Hashulchan (2-28, R. Yisrael ben ShmuelMishkolov Z”L) notes on Tashbetz is that except to learn Torah, even if he has available from whom to learn [in the land].