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The Sedra of Behar introduces the Mitzvah of ” Shmita” , that the land of Israel should lie fallow in a seven year cycle.
The second verse says ” When you come into the land which I am giving you then the land shall keep a Shabbos to G-d ”
As the Torah was written by G-d one should proceed to read it with one very basic assumption….G-d’s good at Hebrew! there are no mistakes in the words. If a word or a sentence are written in a certain way, then the question is why ! The word for Giving ” Notain ” is in the present tense. The land of Israel is not given to us it is being given to us, on an on going basis. The land has not just to observe a Shabbos but one ” To G-d ” what is the distinction? Rashi comments that the Shmita concept is a direct parallel of the weekly Shabbos. When a Jew keeps Shabbos he or she is making a statement about their belief. We are copying what we believe happened at the beginning of this world’s story. G-d made the universe and stopped the process on the seventh day. By keeping Shabbos we testify to believing this fact. Rashi says that Shmita too testifies in the exact same way….G-d created the world.

Rabbi Moshe Alshich asks, if this is so, then why isn’t the Shabbos of the land , Shmita, mobile, like the Shabbos of the week? Shabbos goes everywhere with the Jews. Whether in Siberia or New , Jews keep Shabbos. But the mitzvah of Shmita if specific to Israel, no where else. If it is a replica of Shabbos then it too should “travel” to wherever a Jew farms.

The very first Rashi on the Torah explains why G-d told us the creation story at all and included it in the Torah… ” To tell his people that they can answer those who claim that the Jews stole the land from it’s original inhabitants. The reply should be; G-d made it and gave it to them but then took it and gave it to us. As he made it and it’s his, he can give it to whoever he chooses ”

I once attended a public meeting in Glasgow on ” Zionism ” where the main speaker was a certain Mr Michael Adams well known as a journalist with very hostile views towards the state of Israel. In the course of his talk ( Which incidentally, the Jewish rep. council had taken the trouble to warn Jews to avoid as Adams was felt to be too effective a speaker ) the words Zionist and Israeli soon became replaced by ” Jews” and “The Jews” .

At one point he said ” And not only did the Jews commit genocide in 1948 against the Palestinians, they merely followed in the footsteps of the Israelites who slaughtered the Canaanites who originally lived there ”
I stuck my hand up and adopted the most weedy and nerd like voice I could… ” Mr Adams, Mr Adams, do you believe that G-d made the world in six days? ” Adams looked at the chairman who had accepted this question from this pathetic wimp with some impatience and replied ” No of course I don’t believe it ”
But the Nerd continued…..
“But Mr Adams, Mr Adams it says it in the Bible !! ” Adams looked pityingly ” But I don’t believe in the Bible’s statements ” At this point I dropped the wimpish voice and said ” In that case Mr Adams where do you get the information that the Jews massacred the original inhabitants of Canaan. You can’t have it both ways. Either the bible’s account is correct and G-d told them to do it or the account is not correct in which case they didn’t massacre the inhabitants of Canaan ” Adams got considerably flustered.

The Keeping of Shmita Broadcasts to the world a simple statement, we believe that our legitimacy to the land of Israel is because G-d gave it and goes on giving it. He created it and our recognition of that fact allows us the right to occupy his tenancy.

The Talmud says that the seventy years of the first exile which followed the destruction of the Temple was the exact amount of years which the Jews failed to observe Shmita. G-d was reminding the Jews that their right to Israel is predicated on a keeping of the tenancy agreement. That is the significance of the smallest word with the biggest significance in Hebrew…IF Bechukosai begins with ” IF you keep my rules .” The second paragraph of the Shema says it again ” And it will be IF you listen to my laws ” etc. The occupation of the land is a rolling contract between G-d and us. Keeping Shmita is the greatest pointer to that fact.

Rabbi Y Y Rubinstein has thrilled audiences from Jerusalem to Manchester and Johannesburg to Los Angeles. There are two reasons for his success. One is a mastery of sources in Jewish philosophy and his understanding of contemporary events. The other is his unique delivery…If you have the opportunity to benefit from his wisdom…do not miss it!

Rabbi Professor Dovid Gottlieb

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