Judaism Surrogated, Substituted and Secondhand


A number of years ago, there was an ad for a fundraising project of some organization. Doesn’t matter what organization. Their pitch went something like this: Now you can observe Sh’mita while living in Chutz LaAretz. Here’s your chance to perform this special Eretz Yisrael mitzva from the comfort of your home – without even coming to Israel.

It went something like that. Here’s how it went. For a modest donation of $36, you can buy a square centimeter of land in the Galil. You actually got a deed for your land purchase. The whole plot of land was to lay fallow during the Shmita year, thereby, each owner would fulfill the mitzva of V’HASH’VI’IT TISHM’TENA from Parshat Mishpatim and scrupulously avoid the four Shmita prohibitions from Parshat B’har.

Clever fundraising ploy! But not the point. Does it ‘work’ halachically? Also not the point. The point is that Sh’mita is one of the Mitzvot HaT’luyot BaAretz. One of the mitzvot connected to the Land of Israel. Jews are supposed to live in Eretz Yisrael (that’s its own mitzva) and they are supposed to keep many mitzvot that can only be done here.

Which mitzvot of this type apply today by Torah law, which by Rabbinic decree, and which do not apply until we have a duly constituted Sanhedrin, majority of the Jews of the world living in Eretz Yisrael, Yovel (also from this week’s sedra) back in full swing… is also besides the point.

The Jewish people belong in Eretz Yisrael. This is where G-d always planned that we should be after He took us out of Egypt. Our various exiles were brought upon us when we failed to keep the Torah, when we failed to remain faithful to G-d. But Eretz Yisrael was always the goal – and still is.

And how about the service that a number of organizations provide? Fax us a prayer and we will insert it into the cracks of the Kotel for you. Whatever merit the idea has – there is something fundamentally wrong with it.

Which part of the following would you say is the most significant? Being in Israel. Being in Jerusalem. Davening at the Kotel. Putting a k’vittel in the Kotel? We vote for the first three. But who needs them if you can do the fourth by fax?

Would you believe that there are people who regularly visit the Kotel… via the various Kotel cams? Something’s wrong.

Which brings us around to repeating a theme of Lead Tidbits past. In checking our archives, we found the idea expressed a few different ways every few years. It has to do with the famous question, MA INYAN SHMITA EITZEL HAR SINAI? What is the reason for mentioning Har Sinai in the introductory pasuk to the laws of Sh’mita? Rashi gives his famous answer, based on earlier sources. The following is not meant to detract at all from Rashi’s answer. It’s just another way of looking at things, another way of reacting to the pasuk.

Har Sinai represents Torah. Shmita represents Eretz Yisrael. Not only is Sh’mita a mitzva connected to the Land, it is also the mitzva singled out by the Torah, the neglect of which brings exile upon the Jewish People. Torah and Eretz Yisrael. What’s the connection? What does Eretz Yisrael have to do with Torah? Would someone ask that? No one should, but some Jews probably wonder.

The first time that G-d appeared to Moshe, He told him that He would descend into Egypt to bring the People up from there to Eretz Yisrael. G-d did not say, here’s the plan: 1. Take the people out of Egypt. 2. Give them the Torah. 3. Bring them to Eretz Yisrael. He said it in one pasuk: take us up from Egypt to Eretz Yisrael. On the way? Yes, we were to receive the Torah. That is the reason we are a nation. To live a Torah life… in Eretz Yisrael. What about when we are exiled? Torah in our places of exile. But THE place for a Torah way of life is in Eretz Yisrael.

Vayikra 25:38 (in B’har) says it well: I am HaShem, your G-d, Who took you out of the land of Egypt , to give you the Land of Canaan, to be G-d unto you. The Torah was given at Sinai, outside Eretz Yisrael, to make sure we know that Torah must be kept even in exile. By introducing the portion of Sh’mita and Yovel with the ‘extra’ words, B’HAR SINAI, the Torah is making sure that we know the connection between Torah and Eretz Yisrael.

Do we have everything here yet? No, we still await the Mikdash, and more Jews.

From OU Israel, here.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.