Climb Every Mountain
InParshasבְּהַר, Hashem gives us the mitzvah of shemittah. Rashi points out that just like the mitzvah of shemittahwas given on Har Sinai with all of its general principles and details, so too all the mitzvos were given on Har Sinai with all of their general principles and details.
Themeforshim/commentariesask why the mitzvah of shemittahwas chosen out of all the 613 mitzvos to teach this principle. The answer given is that the mitzvah of shemittahis the key to having emunahin Hashem. In order for us to climb the mountain, we need to have a strong sense of emunah.
After commanding the shemittahyear, the Torah then commands the mitzvah of יוֹבֵל/the jubilee year. We are told to count seven shemittahcycles, with each cycle being seven years, totaling forty-nine years, designating the fiftieth year as the jubilee year, where lands go back to their original owners and where Hebrew slaves go free.
The Kli Yakar compares the counting of the jubilee year to the number of years in the life of man. A man lives for around seventy years, the first twenty of which are not counted as he does not yet have a fully developed seichelto be able to lead a straight life and is still liable to err in his ways. The beis din shel ma’alah/the Heavenly Court is therefore lenient in that they don’t hold him liable for punishment until he reaches the age of twenty. Only once he has turned twenty is he considered equipped with the necessary intelligence to decipher right from wrong. From then on he is truly living, grappling with the struggles of life.
We are then given seven cycles, seven full circuits around life’s tracks, until we reach the fiftieth year, around seventy years of age, by which time we should have matured and ripened. (This is a nice kavanahto have in mind when winding the tefillin straps seven times around your arm, where having completed seven cycles, Hashem then crowns us with the tefillin shel rosh). Having ripened, we should now be ready for the picking from the tree of life, and hence we die at a ripe old age. This is the year we go free, as Chazal say the dead go free.1We are נִפְטַרfrom the world, פָּטוּרfrom mitzvos, we are now free. We are commanded to count the years so that we know how much time we have left, in order to keep us focused on the goal.
אִם בְּחֻקֹּתַי תֵּלֵכוּ וְאֶת מִצְוֹתַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם,וְנָתַתִּי גִשְׁמֵיכֶם בְּעִתָּם וְנָתְנָה הָאָרֶץ יְבוּלָהּ וְעֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה יִתֵּן פִּרְיוֹ
If you go in my ways and guard my mitzvos and do them, I will give your rains in their times and the land will give her produce and the tree its fruit.2
We should not delude ourselves into thinking, like the secular mentality, that you reap what you sow. The lesson of the shemittahis to prove just the opposite — that by letting the land rest and putting our trust in Hashem, He will bless us accordingly. Even when we don’t sow the land, we will still have plenty. The goyimrun according to rules of טֶבַע/nature, where you indeed reap what you sow, so consequently they have noemunahin Hashem and can only trust themselves. By observing shemittah, Hashem has given us the opportunity to live above nature, to break our natural thought that what we reap is what we sow.
The Gemara compares the yetzer harato a very tall mountain, where the tzaddikimat the end of their lives wonder how high they have climbed in overcoming the yetzer.3In order to climb the mountain, we have to have trust in Hashem.
The Kli Yakar compares us to an אָרִיס/a sharecropper who doesn’t actually own the field but is just paid to work the field and is rewarded according to how much the field produces. We are given forty-nine years to work the field and produce, after which time, on our jubilee, we go free and the field returns to Hashem, the original owner. We go free from our formidable opponent, the yetzer hara, and hopefully we have something to show for it.
We only take with us what the field produces, i.e., our Torah andma’asim tovim. As we say in the שִׁיר הַמַעַלוֹת beforebentching,“Those who sow with tears will harvest with joy,” meaning that life is hard, we are working the field and are thus open to all the elements that Hashem throws at us in order to test us.
Interestingly enough, the word אָרִיס/sharecropper is related to the word אֵרוּסִין/betrothed.4Life is also like an engagement period, in which we prepare ourselves to be a worthy bride to Hashem. So in this time period of אֵרוּסִין, we are just an אָרִיס; only in the World to Come do we rightfully take our place as Hashem’s queen and joint owner of the field, the field of apples, eluded to as the פַּרְדֵס/paradise, i.e., Gan Eden.
The Kli Yakar says that we are considered גֵרִים/strangers in this world, and only in the World to come, if we have passed the test of time, are we considered תּוֹשָׁבִים/full-residents.
We should not be fooled into thinking that we own the land and that we are “independent.” Rather, Hashem owns the land and we are very much dependent on Him. When it comes to money, most people would like to be financially independent, but what they don’t comprehend is that what they are really saying is that they don’t want to be dependent on G-d, but rather want to be secure in the knowledge that they can have whatever they want whenever they want it. By being financially independent, they don’t need to daven to Hashem for what they need, and in effect they lose their relationship with G-d. However, someone with the right ambition will want to be financially dependent. This is one of the lessons of shemittah: that Hashem is saying to us “Be dependent on Me for your livelihood so that we can build a relationship.”
Thehaftarahat the end of Behar/Bechukosaicompares us to a tree. If throughout our life we put our trust in man, then we are like a barren tree that has been planted in the arid desert. The one who trusts in Hashem is compared to a tree planted by the יוּבַל/ brook of water who will never go thirsty; he never fears the heat, as he has lush foliage to protect him, and he does not fear the times of drought, because he has full bitachonin Hashem and never stops bearing fruits.5
This is the emunahof life: that whatever the weather, whether we have rain or drought,גֶשֶׁם — גַשְׁמִיוּת — or little גַשְׁמִיוּת, we know that we are here to work the field that Hashem has given us. If we have true emunahin Hashem and follow his ways, then Hashem promises us the rains in our times, the land will produce, and the trees of the field will bear fruit.
When we are planted near the יוּבַל, the מַיִם חַיִים/the life-giving waters of the Torah, we can build our emunahand climb the mountain so that when it comes time for us to go free in our שְׁנַת הַיוֹבֵל/our jubilee year, we will be jubilant in the knowledge that our field has produced a bumper crop, וְנָתְנָה הָאָרֶץ יְבוּלָהּ /and the land will give her produce.
יוּבַלmeans to be jubilant because it is the time when we go free and reunite with our Beloved. However, we can only truly be jubilant if we have a relationship with Hashem. Emunahis the key to the relationship. Hashem gives us the shemittahand jubilee years to give us the opportunity to build up our emunah, to build up our dependence on Hashem, so that when we reach the mountain top we are not alone. However, when we are “independent,” we are in effect alone and we become sad and lonely. Emunahis essentially what connects us through the יוּבַל/brook to the living waters of Hashem, and this is the true jubilance of life.
This sense of jubilance that we get from being connected to the living waters of the יוּבַלallows us to carry on to their source, where we can literally reach the mountaintops and climb every mountain. From there we can harvest with joy (בְּרִנָה יִקְצֹרוּ) and enjoy the יְבוּלָה/the fruits of our labor.
Incidentally, the word mobileand automobilecome from the Hebrew word מוֹבִיל, which means to bring/produce/flow, i.e, moveable.6
חַזַק,חַזַק,וְנִתְחַזֵק(applicable when the sedrasare together). חַזַקalso stands for חַרִישָׁה/plowing,זְרִיעָה/planting, and קְצִירָה/harvesting. We should all be strong in life so that we can harvest with joy!
4Devarim Rabbah, Eikev 7a.
5See Avos 3:17.
6See Rashi to Vayikra26:20.