5

(related to "Ma Inyan Shmitta Eitzel Har Sinai" but not the same)


Parshas B'Har starts off saying Hashem spoke to Moshe on Har Sinai and instructed Moshe about the mitzvah of Shmitta.

Rashi (s.v. "בהר סיני" ) asks:

?בהר סיני. מָה עִנְיַן שְׁמִטָּה אֵצֶל הַר סִינַי? וַהֲלֹא כָל הַמִּצְוֹת נֶאֶמְרוּ מִסִּינַי

What does the topic of Shmitta have to to do with Har Sinai? Weren't all the mitzvot given on Sinai?

Rashi (quoting the Toras Kohanim) answers saying that just as the general rules, specificities, and minute details about Shmitta were given on Har Sinai, so too all of the other mitzvot with their general rules, specificities, and their minute details were given on Har Sinai.

Question:

As Rashi himself states, every mitzvah has general rules, specificities, and minute details.

The Torah could've used any mitzvah-- Shabbos, Nedarim, Tefillin, Sha'atnez, Kosher, etc-- to teach us the same concept- why was Shmitta specifically chosen to teach us this?

  • Rashi only repeats Safrah sefaria.org.il/Sifra%2C_Behar%2C_Section_1.1?lang=bi So your question is on the Midrash. – Al Berko May 24 at 11:05
  • Maybe as it wasn't applicable in the desert so it's Kal vachomer for Mitzvos that are. – Al Berko May 24 at 11:08
  • "וְנִרְאֶה לִי שֶׁכָּךְ פֵּרוּשָׁהּ: לְפִי שֶׁלֹּא מָצִינוּ שְׁמִטַּת קַרְקָעוֹת שֶׁנִּשְׁנֵית בְּעַרְבוֹת מוֹאָב בְּמִשְׁנֵה תוֹרָה, לָמַדְנוּ שֶׁכְּלָלוֹתֶיהָ וּפְרָטוֹתֶיהָ כֻּלָּן נֶאֶמְרוּ מִסִּינַי, וּבָא הַכָּתוּב וְלִמֵּד כָּאן עַל כָּל דִּבּוּר שֶׁנִּדְבַּר לְמֹשֶׁה, שֶׁמִּסִּינַי הָיוּ כֻלָּם, כְּלָלוֹתֵיהֶן וְדִקְדּוּקֵיהֶן, וְחָזְרוּ וְנִשְׁנוּ בְּעַרְבוֹת מוֹאָב: " – Al Berko May 24 at 11:10
4

Based on Be'er Yosef to Leviticus 25:1-3

There’s a Midrash which analyzes 1 a verse in Psalms 2. The verse describes גיבורי כוח, the mighty ones of strength, who follow Hashem’s word. Who does this refer to? The Midrash says that it refers to those who observe the mitzvah of shemittah. Why are these people called mighty ones of strength? If someone one day gave tzedakah 3, it would be commendable, but not overly impressive. If they gave it every day for a week, that would be more impressive. If they gave tzedakah every day for a month, that would be even more impressive. Who would expect anyone to give tzedakah every day for an entire year? That would be tremendously difficult. For sure someone who observes shemittah for an entire year, seeing their land remain undeveloped, and their fruits taken by strangers, and keeps silent, is superhuman 4.

Our Sages are teaching us that the mitzvah of shemittah is incredibly difficult, and requires an enormous amount of strength of character. If so, how could it be that Hashem would expect this from us? Hashem never gives someone a test they cannot succeed in 5, but this mitzvah seems to be too much. Therefore, it must be that Hashem determined that this mitzvah is something that the Jews can handle, just like any other mitzvah. We are taught that Hashem investigated (so to speak) and determined that there was no nation fit to accept the Torah except the Jewish people 6.

Besides being inherently fit to receive the Torah and fulfill its mitzvos, we see that Hashem prepared the Jews for this purpose by bringing them to Mount Sinai. The primordial snake infected Eve with some sort of contamination 7. This implanted in Mankind a sort of predisposition against the Torah and its mitzvos. When Hashem brought the Jews to Mount Sinai, this contamination was removed. Unlike the non-Jews, who didn’t have this experience, this process elevated and sanctified the Jewish people 8 to make them more receptive towards the holiness of the Torah 9. So much so that they were able to precede “We will do” before “We will listen” 10. Most people are not on such a level to be able to have such trust in Hashem to commit themselves to listen to whatever He says, before He even said it. The Sinai experience paved the way for such a possibility 11.

Because the Jewish people were elevated to such a high and lofty level at Mount Sinai, from that point on 12 they didn’t have such a difficulty with the mitzvah of shemittah. To be able to abandon their land for an entire year wasn’t as large a burden. Even though to everyone else, it would appear to be an impossible mitzvah to keep. For this reason, the Torah emphasized that the mitzvah of shemittah was given at Mount Sinai. The very fact that the Jews were brought to Mount Sinai is the reason they are able to keep the mitzvah of shemittah, something no other nation could withstand.


1 Vayikra Rabbah 1:1; Midrash Tanchuma Vayikra § 1; Tanchuma Yashan Vayikra § 1. Eitz Yosef to Midrash Tanchuma understands that Zohar I p. 90a also possibly understands the verse this way

2 Psalms 103:20-21

3 Eitz Yosef to Vayikra Rabbah loc. cit.

4 ואיזהו גיבור הכובש את יצרו (Avos 4:1)

5 Avodah Zara 3a

6 Vayikra Rabbah 13:2

7 Shabbos 146a

8 Rashi ad. loc. s.v. מזלייהו

9 This explains why we mention in the Haggadah in the song Dayeinu that it would have been enough if Hashem just brought us to Mount Sinai, even if he didn’t give us the Torah. This is pointed out by the Abudraham and Kol Bo’s commentary on the Haggadah

10 Exodus 24:7

11 Siach Yitzchak’s commentary to the Haggadah (by Rav Yitzchak Meltzan)

12 Even though we are taught that the contamination of the primordial snake returned when the Jews sinned with the Golden Calf (Nefesh HaChaim 1:6), one explanation is that it returned with a much lower potency. See Ohr Yechezkel Torah VeDa’as for a discussion on this topic. The Be’er Yosef doesn’t discuss this, but he does see from the gemarra in Shabbos loc. cit. that the effects of Mount Sinai are still present. He also brings Nedarim 20a and Yerushalmi Kiddushin 4:1 as a proof. See there. See also UBacharta BaChaim ad. loc. § 22

2

Ramban here answers that Shemittah was used as an example since it was stated briefly/generally at the time of Matan Torah (in Mishpatim), and the details were said later. This example shows us that all Mitzvos which were only mentioned backhandedly (or not at all) at that time in the Torah, but were explained later on, were really all explained in detail at Sinai.

  • I don't see how this answers the question. – msh210 May 26 at 11:24
  • This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. - From Review – DonielF May 26 at 11:42
  • @msh210 how does it not answer the question? The question was why this mitzvah specifically was chosen, as opposed to others. Ramban points out something unique about Shemittah that explains why it is used to demonstrate that details were said at Har Sinai as well. The Torah could not have used Shabbos, Nedarim, Tefillin, etc. according to his understanding. If my explanation is unclear, I'm happy to clarify, but it's certainly an answer... – רבות מחשבות May 26 at 14:02
  • @DonielF see above ^^^ – רבות מחשבות May 26 at 14:02
  • @רבותמחשבות “Since it was stated briefly/generally at the time of Matan Torah (in Mishpatim), and the details were said later.” So were the Shalosh Regalim, Shabbos, Hashavas Aveidah, and many others. – DonielF May 26 at 14:50
2

Aleinu LeShabeiach, based on the teachings of Rav Zilberstein, quotes two answers to this question (p. 394-395):

The Chasam Sofer explains that the reason shemittah and Mount Sinai are juxtaposed is because shemittah is a clear proof that the Torah was given by Hashem, and not fabricated by Moshe Rabbeinu, chas v’shalom. For what human being would dare to make the promise that I will ordain My blessing for you in the sixth year and it will yield a crop sufficient for the three-year period (25:21)? Only Hashem, Who is omnipotent, can guarantee such a thing. Shemittah therefore serves as a proof of the revelation at Sinai. [...]

The Imrei Shefer offers another explanation of the connection between shemittah and Mount Sinai. Shemittah, he says, is called Shabbos, for just as Shabbos is the source of blessing for the other six days of the week, shemittah is the source of blessing for the other six years of the shemittah cycle. If a person allows his fields to lie fallow during shemittah, that is what will bring him success during the years when he does work the land.

Mount Sinai itself serves as an embodiment of this concept. When Hashem came to give the Torah; all of the mountains presented their credentials, as it were, in the hopes that the Torah would be given on them. Mount Sinai, however, was modest and reticent, standing at the side and not touting its own qualifications for having the Torah given upon it. That was why Mount Sinai merited to become greater than all of the other mountains.

This is the connection between shemittah and Mount Sinai; just as Mount Sinai’s inactivity was what led to its eventual distinction, our inactivity during shemittah is what leads to our receiving Hashem’s blessing.

1

Ralbag, seen here, suggests that it is not the particular Mitzvah itself that warrants this statement, rather it's placement in the order of the Torah.

He writes:

Since the narrative was interrupted with details about the one who cursed, which was not something said at Har Sinai, the Torah reiterated that this mitzvah was in fact said at Har Sinai. This signifies that everything mentioned previously was also said at Har Sinai. It is only because of the complete receiving of the Torah Moshe stayed there 40 days and nights.

אחשוב כי מפני שהפסיק המאמר בפרשת מקלל שלא היה המאמר בה בהר סיני זכר בה המקום שזה הדבור היה בהר סיני לא אחר דבור פרשת מקלל וזה לאות שכל שאר הדברים הקודמים היו בהר סיני ולזה עמד שם משה רבעים יום וארבעים לילה להגיע לו שם התורה על שלמותה:

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