וידבר ה' אל משה בהר סיני לאמר.
“And Hashem spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai, so to say.” (Vayikra 25:1)
With this verse, the Torah begins the commandment of shemittah, the obligation to leave the fields fallow every seventh year. Rashi asks: “What is the connection between shemittah and Mount Sinai?” Why does the Torah mention the fact that Hashem spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai when discussing the mitzvah of shemittah? All mitzvos were given on Mount Sinai, so why is the mitzvah of shemittah mentioned separately?
Rashi explains that the Torah takes the mitzvah of shemittah as an example to show that just like this mitzvah was fully detailed on Mount Sinai, so too all other mitzvos were fully detailed on Mount Sinai, even if only the main principles of the mitzvah are mentioned in the Torah. All components of the mitzvos were given to Moshe on Sinai, not just the words that were written down in the Torah. We shouldn’t think that our sages added anything to the Torah; they merely revealed to us that which had already been taught to Moshe by Hashem on Mount Sinai.
We are still left with a question why the Torah teaches this through the mitzvah of shemittah. The Torah could have chosen any other mitzvah and go into detail about it so that we should learn that all mitzvos were given in their entirety on Sinai.
The mitzvah of shemittah carries a special teaching for us, and this is why this mitzvah was singled out by the Torah.
The yetzer hara tries to do whatever he can to pull us away from the Torah and distance us from the commandments that were given to us on Sinai. He keeps on trying new tactics and coming up with new ideas how to snare us into his trap. The Binyan Dovid interprets the Gemara (Sotah 14a): “Where was Moshe buried (the nations wonder); those who live on top (of the mountain) think that he is buried on the bottom, and those who are on the bottom think that he is on top.” He plays on the words of the Gemara to bring out the following teaching: The nations do everything possible to pull us away from Toras Moshe, the Torah that was given through Moshe on Sinai. They do everything they can to ‘bury’ Moshe and his teachings. When the Jews are on top, they are affluent and live in peace, the nations say: “Let us push them down to the bottom.” They torture the Jewish people and enact decrees against them to make their lives bitter. Maybe then they will forget about the Torah, they think. But whenever the nations try this method they see that it doesn’t work. As soon as the persecution subsides, the Jews return to the Torah like a drowning person coming up for air, and like a starving person grabbing a piece of bread. We see this now in the countries where Jews were persecuted for years, but today they are longing to return. The sparks of their neshamos have been reignited and they thirst for Torah.
So when the nations see that this method doesn’t work, they try a different tactic, continues the Binyan Dovid. They raise the Jews to the top by befriending them and inviting them to enjoy life together. They hope to distance the Jews from the Torah this way.
We see from this that the yetzer hara constantly schemes to snatch us away from the Torah way of life. Sometimes he tries the method of convincing people that a transgression is actually a great mitzvah. He confuses people about what’s right and wrong and succeeds to pull them away from our traditions. By the time they realize how far they’ve strayed, it is often extremely difficult to return.
Hashem foresaw all of these difficulties that will await the Jewish people throughout the ages, at the hands of the nations and the yetzer hara. He revealed all this to Moshe and told him to teach the Jewish people about the mitzvah of shemittah. Shemittah means to “let go” – to leave the fields fallow, as if ownerless and abandoned, allowing everyone to take from the produce without payment. “And if you will ask what you will we eat,” says the Torah, “be assured that Hashem will take care of you and you need not worry.”
Shemittah teaches us many things, among them that a Jew must sometimes let go of something and leave it completely abandoned. A person may think to himself, ‘If Hashem would have allowed me to work during shemittah then the fields would have produced much more fruits and vegetables and then I would have been able to give the produce to the poor and hungry. I would have been able to give lots of tzedaka and accomplish great things!’ However, we Jews do not question Hashem’s commandments or convince ourselves that we can accomplish better things by going against Hashem’s will. If Hashem told us not to work on shemittah, then we refrain from all work and just let go.
This should teach us that when it comes to all other mitzvos we should never doubt our traditions and the teachings that have been handed down to us by our great Rabbis. We should abandon all of our own reasoning and calculations by letting go and submitting ourselves fully to the will of Hashem.
This is why Hashem chose to explain the mitzvah of shemittah in detail on Mount Sinai, to teach us to leave all of our personal calculations aside when it comes to fulfilling Hashem’s command. Even if the yetzer hara will try to convince us that if we would only listen to him we would be able to accomplish so much more for Torah and yiddishkeit, we should still let go and abandon all of our personal ideas. We may think that our reasoning is correct, but in truth we may be doing tremendous harm.
The mitzvah of shemittah was given at Sinai, and this shows us that Hashem knew in advance of the many hardships we will face in order to keep the Torah properly. Rashi tells us that this verse teaches us that all mitzvos were given at Sinai, so this helps us keep all of the mitzvos, because we can now apply the concept of shemittah to all other areas of avodas Hashem.
Hashem should help us, that every Jew should be able to stand strong against the yetzer hara’s persuasions. We should remain steadfast in our adherence to the ways of our ancestors and teachers, and keep all mitzvos of the Torah that were given to us at Sinai. In this merit, may all who need a yeshua be helped, and all who need a refuah should merit a full recovery. May we all be zoche to greet Moshiach speedily and in our days, Amen.