Dvar Torah Parshas Behar – His Gashmiyus is My Ruchniyus

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    Behar – His Gashmiyus is My Ruchniyus:
    כי ימוך אחיך – If your brother becomes impoverished (Vayikra 25:25).

    Chazal (Erchin 30b) explain the juxtaposition of the laws regarding Shemittah and Yovel with the subsequent sections dealing with one who undergoes ascending levels of poverty.

    The person who refuses to abide by the restrictions of selling the produce of the Shemittah and Yovel years, but instead hoards it with the intention of selling it, imagines there is a financial killing to be made. Therefore, just after telling us these restrictions, the Torah proceeds to describe scenarios wherein a person becomes impoverished and requires financial assistance or relief. The intended message is to show the Shemittah violator that rather than profiting, he loses money. At first, he may have to sell movable goods (Vayikra 25: 13, 14). If he takes the hint, well and good, but if not, he suffers further losses until he has to sell off his fields (ibid. V. 25); if he still doesn’t learn, he may have to sell his house (ibid. V. 29). This downward spiral continues until he needs to borrow money with interest (ibid. V. 36)…. and ultimately even sell himself as a slave (ibid. V. 39). Thus, the juxtaposition in the pesukim foretells the progression of punishment that awaits the person violating Shemittah laws.

    Rav Yaakov Yosef, the first and only chief rabbi of New York City (cited in Sefer Kehillas Yitzchak), suggests an alternate reason for the positioning of the laws dealing with an impoverished person just after the laws of Shemittah and Yovel. He does this by first discussing an intriguing Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 34:1) regarding the pasuk above (25:25), which says that the intent of the pasuk is, as it says in Tehillim (41:2), “Ashrei maskil el dal be’yom ra’ah yemalteihu Hashem – Praiseworthy is he who contemplates the needy, on the day of evil Hashem will deliver him.”

    Unlike in the animal kingdom, where we find creatures that seem to have a perennial smile and laugh on their face, or birds whose song always echoes with a mournful dirge, humans are a mixed bag of feelings and emotions, with the ability to change and go from one extreme to the other. We can be happy or sad, joyful or beset by grief, confident or fearful, full of trust or consumed by worry. Our feelings are not fixed by a tether to one emotion; they fluctuate and adapt to the situation. The trick is to know when to apply which emotion.

    Let’s take a pair of emotions that people usually confuse: the feelings of bitachon and de’agah, trust and worry. Most often, we are caught up in worry about our own needs rather than those of our fellows. If my neighbor comes running to me, frantic that he won’t be able to pay his rent that is due next week, I console him by saying, “Have bitachon. There is a big G-d in the world and it will work out.” Kind words, but just that: words. When it comes to ourselves, however, we’re busy saving money to put our newborn through graduate school, sometimes at the expense of our spiritual growth. We live in fear and concern, while we tell our friend to have faith and trust.
    In truth, we have it backward. When it comes to others, when dealing with a poor person, we have to be very practical and down-to-earth, not resorting to platitudes about reliance on miracles. He needs money now; we have to take care of him now. That is why the Midrash brings the pasuk of “Ashrei maskil” right after it quotes the pasuk of the person who becomes poor; we must use our seichel, our rational mind, to help out our fellow Jews and not rely on bitachon at such times.

    Rav Chaim Volozhin was quoted as saying, “We worry about our own gashmiyus and everyone else’s ruchniyus, yet it should be the reverse. Our concern should be for others’ gashmiyus and our own ruchniyus.” I need to strengthen my own bitachon in Hashem, while saving the de’agah, the worry, for other people.

    With this in mind, writes Rav Yaakov Yosef, we can explain the positioning of the section of laws of one who becomes poor just after the laws regarding Shemittah and Yovel. Observing Shemittah or Yovel constitutes a yearlong lesson in bitachon in Hashem. It takes courage, but the reward is great; my family is provided for, while my level of bitachon takes a quantum leap. I see firsthand the power of Hashem – that there is really nothing to worry about.
    But there is a downside, as well. I may come to project my newfound level of confidence and trust in Hashem onto another. “You’re worried about paying an electric bill? I just took a year off of work! Don’t sweat it. Everything will be o.k.”
    Therefore, after being instructed in the laws of Shemittah, a yearlong internship in Bitachon 101, we are given the laws of one who becomes impoverished and how we are to deal with him. Although I may be experiencing a spiritual high, with absolute trust in Hashem, I still have to help my brother. I still have to find ways to support and rehabilitate him. I have to lend him money and not take interest. I have to buy his land or homestead but allow him to buy them back.
    When we are more concerned about others’ physical needs while trusting Hashem for our needs, Hashem shows us favor and treats us better than we deserve. In Berachos (20b), the angels question why Hashem shows favor to the Jews when He describes Himself as One Who does not show favor. Hashem responds, “How can I not show them favor? Heim medakdekim al atzmam ad ke’zayis ad ke’beitzah – They are so particular on themselves up until the size of an olive or the size of an egg.” Although by Torah law one must bentch only if he eats an amount that satisfies him, nevertheless, the Jews took upon themselves to bentch even after eating bread that is the size of an olive or the size of an egg.

    Rav Chaim Volozhin (cited in Kehillas Yitzchak Parashas Nasso) asks why the Gemara uses two seemingly extra words: “al atzmam – on themselves.” He explains that one may have thought that the Jews are being machmir in order to save themselves from having to give a sufficient portion to a pauper, by saying, “Why should I have to give more to the pauper? This is all I eat for my meal!” If that is the case, they are not deserving of favor from Hashem, for they are being machmir for selfish reasons. That is why it says “al atzmam”, implying that they are only machmir for themselves, but they provide for a hungry fellow what would truly be kdei seviah, until he is satisfied. This is as it says in the Mishnah in Pe’ah (8:7), “We do not give a vagabond pauper less than a loaf of bread.” Jews are willing to give a lot to others, while just a little bit is enough for them.
    If we treat others better than we treat ourselves, Hashem will, middah keneged middah, treat us better than we deserve.

    Reb Eliezer

    If for themselves a small amount is enough as they appreciate the small amount given to them because it comes from Hashem, the Great Provider, the King of Kings, midah kaneged midah, Hashem appreciates the small amount of mitzvos they do, recognizing that they are only a human being.

    Reb Eliezer

    The reason for shemittah might be:

    Shmita was given on Har Sinai similar to the midbar where they were free to learn so are we free to learn for the year where we refrain from working the field. Says the Yismach Moshe that shmita is against all the shabbosim that were not properly observed for seven years. A year we have 52 shabbosim with one day left behind so in seven years we have 364 shabbosim (7 x 52) with the day left behind makes it exactly 365 shabbosim.

    leMaan Achai

    Not necessarily related to Shmittoh, but Tirah’dik nevertheless.
    Today 19 Iyor, is R’ Mendele Rimanover zy”o. He used to repeat SfirathHoOimer w/o a Brocho.
    His Talmid, the Mar’e Yechezke’el (104) praises him in length and cites this fact. https://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=1689&st=&pgnum=148&hilite= (right column at the bottom)

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