Parshas B'har

This week's parsha, B'har, deals with the laws pertaining to shmitah-the seventh year serving as a sabbatical year. "And Hashem spoke to Moshe b'Har Sinai {at Mount Sinai} saying... the land shall rest as a Sabbatical to Hashem [25:1-2]."

Since the entire Torah, encompassing all of the mitzvos {commandments}, was given at Sinai, why does the Torah specifically mention that Hashem gave Moshe the mitzvah of shmitah at Sinai?

Rashi explains in the following manner. The details of many of the mitzvos were elaborated upon later at Arvos Moav {the Plains of Moav}. The mitzvah of shmitah, however, was not elaborated upon later. Therefore, by shmitah it is clear that both its klal {general} law and its prot {the details specific to it alone} were given at Sinai. Shmitah then reflects upon all of the mitzvos, even those which were mentioned at Arvos Moav, teaching that they too were given in their entirety at Sinai. At Arvos Moav there was only a repetition of some of the details.

It would seem that this lesson could have been taught to us by writing the words "Har Sinai {Mount Sinai}" by any one of the commandments which were not repeated at Arvos Moav. Why was shmitah specifically chosen to teach us this concept that the klal {general law} and prot {detailed specific laws} of all of the mitzvos emanated from Sinai?

The Nesivos Sholom answers this question by first explaining another difficulty that we find in the very first Mishna of Avos [1:1]: Moshe received the Torah from Sinai."

Did Moshe receive the Torah from Sinai? Didn't he receive it from Hashem on Sinai!?

He explains that Sinai here is not referring to the mountain itself but rather to the entire experience which led up to and accompanied the giving of the Torah. The heavens opened wide and the entire nation experienced Hashem in a way that was never again repeated. The sages teach that they had such absolute clarity of faith that they 'saw' the words of Hashem. They harbored no doubts about Hashem's existence.

He writes that there are three levels of emunah {faith}. The lowest level is emunah ha'moach {literally, faith of the brain}-an intellectual knowledge-I know. Above that is emunas ha'lev {faith of the heart}-a readiness to act on that knowledge. Highest of all is emunas ha'aivorim {faith of the limbs}-faith that has permeated throughout the entire body and self. All actions are based on and in accordance with this faith.

At Sinai, the clearest of all revelations, the passuk {verse} states "the nation trembled." This indicates and symbolizes that the highest level of emunah was reached-it encompassed their entire beings.

That is what the Mishna was teaching. Moshe received the Torah from Sinai. Of course the Torah was received from Hashem. But the level of emunah that was reached through the experience at Sinai served as the conduit through which the Torah could and would flow down to us. Moshe received the Torah from Sinai.

With this, the Nesivos Sholom explains our original difficulty: why shmitah was specifically chosen to teach us this concept that the klal {general law} and prot {detailed specific laws} of all the mitzvos emanated from Sinai

The general root of each mitzvah is emunah-faith. Each then has its specifics. I believe in Hashem and His Torah's commandments (klal-general) and I therefore observe the Sabbath (prot-specifics). I believe in Hashem and His Torah's commandments (klal-general) and I therefore eat only kosher items (prot-specifics). That is the composition of each and every mitzvah. The klal and then the prot. The emunah and then the manifestation and translation into action of that emunah.

With this we now have a deeper meaning in what Rashi said above. Each mitzvah's klal and prot were taught at Sinai. That emunah, manifested by the experience we call Sinai, is the foundation for the klal and prot of each and every mitzvah.

This was taught to us by the passuk writing Sinai by shmitah. Just as shmitah's klal and prot were taught at Sinai, so too all of the mitzvos, their klal and prot were taught at Sinai.

Why was shmitah specifically chosen to teach us this concept?

Shmitah is unique in that its entire essence-its klal and its prot-is emunah! There are a number of aspects of shmitah. There is shmitah of the land-a person calmly relinquishes ownership for an entire year on that which is the source of his income. Not knowing how he'll feed his family he faithfully adheres to the mitzvah of shmitah. There is also shmitah of money-on shmitah a person calmly cancels any outstanding loans, knowing that he'll ultimately never lose by following the instructions of the One who distributes all wealth.

As such, shmitah is the epitome of emunas ha'aivorim-faith that fills every extremity of the person. It is the epitome of putting the experience of Sinai into action. Shmitah's klal and prot are Sinai and it was therefore chosen to teach the application of this Sinai concept to all of the mitzvos.

A good friend and colleague shared with me the following incident. He had lent out $800 and the money had yet to be repaid. With shmitah approaching and his financial situation somewhat precarious, he decided to write a document called a 'pruzbul.' Hillel established 'pruzbul' out of fear that many wealthy people would lock their doors in the face of borrowers, knowing that come shmitah, their money would be irretrievable. With a proper 'pruzbul' document completed before shmitah, one is permitted to collect a loan even during shmitah.

Once shmitah had arrived, my friend checked his document and, to his dismay, realized that it had not been done properly. The 'pruzbul' was disqualified and along with it, his loan.

Disappointed, he comforted himself with the realization that Hashem wouldn't make him lose out by his adherence to the mitzvah.

Several years later (seven, to be exact) a child of his was involved in an accident and he needed to borrow money until the insurance reimbursement would come through. He ultimately borrowed $3200 from one kind person and then waited impatiently for the completion of the bureaucratic insurance process which would supply him with the funds to pay back the loan.

When, months later, the money finally came through he quickly ran to the house of the lender. "You owe me nothing!" he was told. "What do you mean?" he asked, "I owe you $3200!" The lender explained: "Shmitah has arrived-you owe me nothing. I could have written a 'pruzbul' but I didn't want to. I wanted to fulfill the mitzvah in its pure sense. You owe me nothing," he repeated with a warm, serene smile.

Shmitah. Its klal and its prot are from Sinai. The emunah coursing through every cell of the body nourishing it with the calming knowledge of Hashem's presence and supervision.

Good Shabbos,

Yisroel Ciner

To receive Rabbi Ciner's weekly parsha-insights via email, simply send a blank e-mail to

Rabbi Ciner's email address is ciner@sefer.org

List of 5760 (99-00) Parsha Pages
Rabbi Ciner's main page
Back to Neveh Homepage

The webspace for the Neveh Zion site has been generously donated by

send your comments to webmaster@neveh.org