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Parashat Emor

Dedicated for a Refuah Shelemah for Rachel bat Deborah


Parashat Behar


This week’s parasha talks about the Shemitah —fallow. It opens with, “Hashem spoke to Moshe on Har Sinai, saying, ‘Speak to B’nei Yisrael and say to them: When you come to the land that I give you, the land shall observe a Sabbath rest for Hashem; for six years you may sow your field and for six years you may prune your vineyard, and you may gather in your crop. But the seventh year shall be a complete rest for the land, a Sabbath for Hashem; you shall not sow your field, and you shall not prune your vineyard (25:1-4).”

The Jewish farmers in the Land of Israel are required to let the land lie fallow, or rest, every seventh year. Plowing, planting, pruning, and harvesting, are forbidden by halacha. Additionally, any fruits or herbs which grow of their own accord and where no watch is kept over them are deemed hefker—ownerless and may be picked by anyone. Just imagine if someone told you to close your business for an entire year, every seventh year. How would you survive? If you think about this concept, it’s an unbelievable test that these farmers have.

Shemitah is compared to Shabbat by Rambam in that both Shemitah and Shabbat bear testimony to Hashem’s creation of the universe in six days and His rest on the seventh. The seven years of the Shemitah cycle also allude to the six thousand years of history that will peak by the seventh millennium at Mashiach’s arrival, which will be a period of peace and tranquility.

“The land will give its fruit and you will eat your fill; you will dwell securely upon it (25:19).” Rashi says that in return for observing the Shemitah laws, the Jews would not be exiled. We were in galut for seventy years between the first and second Batei Mikdash because of seventy Shemitah years which were not properly observed.

Hashem’s Promise

Hashem offers assurances that those who let their land lie fallow will not suffer famine. This parasha guarantees that the year before Shemitah, the land will produce a crop large enough to last for three years—the sixth, seventh, and eighth—until the crop planted in the eighth year is harvested.

We might think that the soil is an inanimate object that doesn’t need rest, but from an agricultural perspective, the land needs rest to grow to produce properly. Hashem gave us the Land of Israel, and He gave us a set of instructions on how to use the land most effectively. The Ohr HaChaim mentions the miracle that is this promise. The sixth year should be the weakest because the land produced for six straight years. But it’s that very year that Hashem blesses the land to produce crops for three more.

According to the Chatam Sofer, the laws of Shemitah prove that only Hashem could be the Author of our holy Torah. If a human being invented such a law, he would have to be crazy to make such a promise — because if it wouldn’t happen, he would be disproven. Only G-d can make such a statement and be right about it!

Parnasah Comes from Hashem

Shemitah is a test just like Shabbat, because our parnasah is not in our hands, although we may believe that it comes from our efforts. Rabbi Diamond always taught us that our work is muchrach ve’lo mo’il—necessary, but it doesn’t do anything, which is a very difficult concept to comprehend. Parnasah comes from Hashem. Though it’s necessary to put in our hishtadlut—effort, the actual sustenance comes from Hashem. Some people may think not working on Shabbat and not harvesting during Shemitah will be a hindrance to their income, when in fact, doing so will make them lose more!

The laws of Shemitah are juxtaposed with the subsequent pesukim dealing with a person who descends to the lower levels of poverty. Chazal explain poverty is a direct consequence of refusing to follow the Shemitah laws. If a farmer tries to defy Hashem by keeping his farm going through the seventh year, it will not only not benefit him. On the contrary, it will take him down a very slippery slope of poverty, to the point where he’ll have to sell everything he owns until he ultimately finds himself on the receiving end of charity!

We tend to spend time worrying about our own needs rather than our neighbor’s needs. If someone’s neighbor goes running to him, frantic, saying that he won’t be able to pay his rent that’s past due, the man would console him by saying, “Relax, have bitachon, Hashem will take care of you.” They are kind words, but they’re just words. When it comes to us, however, we’re busy saving money, sometimes at the expense of our spiritual growth. We live in fear and concern, while hypocritically we tell our friends to have faith and trust.

Rav Yisrael Salantar was quoted as saying, “We worry about our own physical needs and everyone else’s spiritual needs, yet it should be the reverse. Our concern should be for our neighbor’s physical needs and our own spiritual needs.” We need to strengthen our own bitachon in Hashem while saving the worry for other people. Rav Yaakov Yosef writes that Shemitah constitutes a yearlong lesson in bitachon in Hashem. It takes courage, but the reward is great. We see firsthand the power of Hashem—that there is really nothing to worry about.

Shabbat is the Real Gift

The story is taken from the book, "Touched by a Story," by Rabbi Spero. It’s a story that tells of a man named Moshe Goldman who came to America with his family from Europe in the early 1900's, looking for a better life. When he told his first boss that he wouldn't be coming in on Saturday, he was given a pink slip. This pattern continued week after week. Moshe had a very difficult time earning a living, but his family’s commitment to Shabbat was unwavering.

One day, Moshe came home to his Lower East Side apartment, crushed by the burden of another futile job interview, to find an eviction notice lying on the floor. He was more than three months behind with the rent. Moshe pleaded with his landlord, Mr. Wells, for an extension. However, the landlord needed the money, and there was someone else willing to rent the apartment. Compassionately, Mr. Wells he allowed the Goldmans to remain in the building for free, but they would have to move into the dark cellar. Their new "apartment" was the building's coal room.

One day, a wealthy businessman, Mark Bookman, was driving through that neighborhood and was intrigued to see two fair colored young boys with kipas covered in black soot. He instructed his driver to pull over. He inquired about the soot, and the boys described their heartbreaking living conditions.

Mr. Bookman then asked the boys to show him where they lived, and he followed them to their apartment. Their mother, Mrs. Goldman, came to the door and saw this distinguished guest. She was completely embarrassed. Mr. Bookman, seeing the pitiful situation, was overcome with compassion and wrote them a check for $5000, which in those days, was an enormous amount of money. It was enough to support their entire family for over a year.

As she thanked the man, Mrs. Goldman was overcome with joy; this was the answer to all her prayers. When her husband, Moshe, returned, she told him the good news. He said, "We can't accept the money!" "Why not?" asked his wife, "He really wants to give it to us." “I know Mark Bookman,” said Moshe. " His business continues to operate on Shabbat, and Jews work there. We didn't sacrifice for the last two years to observe Shabbat to be rescued financially by someone who desecrates it."

Early the next morning, Moshe went to Mr. Bookman's sweater factory to return the check. He was extremely grateful for the gesture, but he said that he couldn't accept it, and he told him why. That night, Mr. Bookman came home looking very disturbed. His wife asked what was wrong. "I can't believe he didn't take the money," he told her, as he began to describe the events that took place.

Then he became teary eyed and said, "We used to be like that. Don't you remember? We also treasured Shabbat, until one week, when business was so awful, and we were short on money, we said, we're going to leave the store open, just this one time, on Shabbat." Tears streaked down his cheeks as he recalled that day ten years ago. "I want that passion back," he said. "I want to be a committed Jew also."

Right then and there, they accepted upon themselves to be Shomer Shabbat again. That Friday, an hour before sunset, Mr. Bookman entered his factory and proudly told all the workers, the factory would be closing for Shabbat. When he arrived home on Friday afternoon and watched his wife lighting the Shabbat candles for the first time in ten years, he felt like he returned home from a very long journey.

The next week, he went back to Moshe Goldman and offered him the check again. This time, he explained how inspired he was from his loyalty to Shabbat, and that he had resolved to keep it from now on. Moshe was relieved of his financial troubles, and Mr. Bookman has religious grandchildren to this very day.

There's a famous saying that goes..."As much as the Jews kept Shabbat, the Shabbat kept the Jews!" The Shabbat that we keep today and that we kept throughout the generations is the secret that has kept the Jewish people alive and our continuity everlasting as a great nation until this very day.

Ahavat Yisrael

Rabbi Paysach Krohn shares a recent story about his friend, Rabbi Yaakov Gibber. Rabbi Gibber brought twenty-five of his community members to visit Israel for three days to give chizzuk—encouragement to the Jewish communities effected by the war. They visited the war front, houses of displaced families, and then they visited a hospital where injured soldiers were being treated. On the amputee unit, they came across a well-dressed 70-year-old amputee sitting by a bedside. He was clearly not a soldier, so they asked him what he is doing there.

The man smiled and explained that 51 years ago, he lost his leg fighting in the Yom Kippur war. The elderly man described that he was able to get a job, get married and enjoy time spent with his children and grandchildren. Since he became injured, he visits the hospital every day to give encouragement to the soldiers. He tells the soldiers that their lives are not over, and there is so much that they can accomplish. That is ahavat yisrael—love for your fellow Jews.

During the years of shemitah and yovel, in Hashem’s incredible kindness. He promises to especially watch over Bnei Yisrael and provide for them. Every attribute that Hashem possesses our Rabbis say we should emulate. We too should love and care for our fellow Jews as our Creator does.

Freeing Servants

The Torah states that in the seventh year, after six years of servitude, a master must let his indentured servant go free. Rabbi Twerski writes in his book Twerski on Chumash that Hashem presented this mitzvah to B’nei Yisrael before they were released from Egypt, so they would take it seriously because the agony from enslavement was still fresh in their minds. Yet despite their history of suffering as slaves, before the destruction of the first Bet Hamikdash, the Jewish masters were having a hard time emancipating their slaves. Yirmiyahu warned the people that not letting their servants go free will result in dire consequences, and unfortunately, his warning fell on deaf ears. Shortly after, the Bet Hamikdash was destroyed.

The lesson from this mitzvah is how important it is to relinquish control. We don’t have to dominate over anyone. Not with indentured servants, but also not with our marriage and children. This is an important lesson we can learn today.

May we all learn to appreciate the Shabbat and keep it to the highest standards that we possibly can because it is the true source of all our Berachot. May we understand that Hashem truly runs the world always follow Hashem’s laws and keep them sacred. May we treat our spouses and family with the kavod they deserve!! Amen!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Amram Sananes, written by Jack Rahmey

Discussion Points:

How would you feel if Hashem commanded you not to work for a whole year every seven years?

How good is our Shabbat observance and how can we make it better?

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Le’ilui Nishmat…

Eliyahu Ben Rachel

Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher

Avraham Ben Garaz

Sarah Bat Chanah

Esther Bat Sarah

Avraham Ben Mazal

Shulamit Bat Helaina

Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana

Rahamim Ben Mazal

Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther

Rafael Ben Miriam

Ovadia Ben Esther

Rav Haim Ben Rivka

Moshe Ben Mazal

Moshe Ben Yael

Yitzchak Ben Adele

Avraham Ben Mazal

Meir Ben Latifa

Chanah Bat Esther

Yaakov Ben Rachel

Malka Bat Garaz

Moshe Ben Garaz

Avraham Ben Kami

Yaakov Ben Leah

Mordechai Ben Rachel

Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal

Natan Ben Rachel

Saadia Ben Miriam

Eliyah Ben Latifa Simhon

Margalit Bat Mazal

Ovadia Haim Ben Malaky

Rabbi Aharon Chaim Ben Ruchama

Luratte Bat Masouda

Esther Bat Menucha

Uri Ben Rahel

Rivka Bat Dona

Shalom Ben Zahra

Rachel Bat Sarah

Shalom Ben Zahra

Refuah Shelemah…

Rachel Bat Devorah

Anyone interested in dedicating this Divre Torah Le'ilui Nishmat or Refuah Shelemah or In Honor of someone, can email me at Checks can be made out to “A Life of Torah” for $101 and mailed to 2387 Ocean Ave Suite 1G, Brooklyn, NY 11229 (please put in the memo “Divre Torah”). Anyone interested in past parshiot please go to the website


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