ישיבת כרם ביבנה

Haftorah: Shemita of the Land and of the Person

הרב אברהם ריבלין, המשגיח הרוחני לשעבר

This week's parsha links the punishment of exile to the sin of not observing shemita (Vayikra 26:33-35):

And you, I will scatter among the nations ... and your land will be desolate ... Then the land will be appeased for all its sabbaticals during all the years of its desolation, while you are in the land of your foes ... All the years of its desolation it will rest, whatever it did not rest during your sabbaticals when you dwelled upon it. Similarly, Chazal comment, "For the sin of neglecting shemita and yovel -- exile comes upon the world." (Shabbat 33a) Rashi (v. 35) even calculates the seventy years of shemita and yovel that were not observed during the years that Yisrael sinned in their land.

Yirmiyahu, in this week's Haftorah, also hints to this link by juxtaposing shemita to exile: "You will be forced to withdraw from your heritage that I have given you, and I will enslave you to your enemies in a land that you knew not." (Yirmiyahu 17:4) Rashi explains, "You will be forced to withdraw from the land those [years] that it did not rest in the sabbaticals that I told you."

What is the meaning of the phrase, "You will be forced to withdraw," that Yirmiyahu mentions? At first glance it is the land which is abandoned and left, and not the person who is forced to withdraw? Yirmiyahu wants to emphasize that if a person does not observe shemita and does not leave the fruits of his land hefker (ownerless), then the shemita and withdrawing is fulfilled in the person himself. He is abandoned and made hefker to all his enemies. "The shemita will be in you." (Radak) "Through this, the shemita was also in they themselves, for they left from freedom to servitude, for they served their enemies." (Malbim) "You will be forced to withdraw from your heritage" thus hints to two, cross-directional punishments of shemita. Both a shemita of the land (by force, as a punishment) by the person who is exiled from it, and also a shemita and withdrawal of the person by the land. The person is exiled from the land, but the land is also "exiled" from the person.

This idea is also found in other verses in the Torah: "Let not the land expel you for having contaminated it" (Vayikra 18:28), and similarly, "Then the land to which I bring you to dwell will not expel you" (20:22). To us, it seems that the nation leaves the land; the person is the active one who chooses, and the land is the inanimate and passive one. The pasuk teaches that Eretz Yisrael, as it were, feels and acts, and if the people that are in it descend to a corrupt ethical level, the land expels them from it. They are not worthy of its sanctity, and are therefore left abandoned by it. Indeed, the Holy Land has free will, and it decides who is worthy to dwell in it, to whom it will give its fruits and goodness, and who will leave it and will be forced to withdraw from its holy influence. [For an extensive discussion of this topic, see R. Charlop's book, "Mei Marom," vol. VI, and "Mima'aynei Hayeshua," Sha'ar Eretz Yisrael.]

The next four verses in the Haftorah also connect to the idea of shemita. Yirmiyahu speaks about a person, "who trusts in people ... and turns his heart away from Hashem." (v. 5), in contrast to the person who ""trusts in Hashem" (v. 7). "Accursed" vs. "Blessed"; "a lone tree in the desert" vs. "a tree planted near water." It is known that one of the traits that the mitzva of shemita comes to instill is that of trust in Hashem. The Sefer Hachinuch writes (mitzva 84):

There is another value in [the mitzva of shemita], that a person will add trust in Hashem, blessed be He. For anyone who finds the strength to give away to the world and to disown all the growth of his land and the heritage of his fathers once every seven years, and is trained in this, he and his family, all his life -- the trait of stinginess will never strengthen in him much, nor will he lack trust. Only one who observes shemita and thereby shows that he trusts in Hashem, only he will merit a lasting bond with the land and heritage of his fathers. He will not be abandoned or be left from it. "He will be like a tree planted near water, which spreads out its roots along a brook ... and will not stop producing fruit." (Yirmiyahu 17:8)

 

 

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