Torah thought forFriday 21 Iyar 5783 May 12 2023

Parshiyot Behar Bechukotai

From the teachings of Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef ztvk”l
translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK

Two Levels of Trust in Hashem in the Approach to the Shemittah Year and the Success of the Young Man who Couldn’t Read or Write

It one of this week’s this week’s Parshiyot, Parashat Behar, we are commanded with the mitzvah of Shemittah. At the beginning of the Parashah it states, “Hashem spoke to Moshe at Mt. Sinai, telling him to tell over” (Vayikra 25:1), and then Hashem commanded, that every seven years, during the Shemittah year, most labours linked to working the land are forbidden, as it states, “you may not plant your fields, nor prune your vineyards” (ibid. 4).

After this it states, “In the seventh year, you might ask, ‘What will we eat in the seventh year? We have not planted nor have we harvested crops!’ I will direct My blessing to you in the sixth year, and [the land] will produce enough crops for three years” (ibid. 20-21).

Meaning, if you will say, what will we eat in the seventh and eighth years, for if we haven’t sown in the seventh year, all the produce we gathered from the sixth year will be quickly consumed, and we will have nothing left to eat in the coming years! Therefore the Torah responds, “I will direct My blessing!” Hashem guarantees that there will be a unique blessing in the sixth year and that the land’s crop will flourish more than enough for the coming three years!

Therefore [curiously] it also states at the beginning of the Parashah, “Hashem spoke to Moshe at Mt. Sinai”, but for what reason is Shemittah [emphasised as having been] taught at Mt. Sinai? All the Torah was given at Sinai! Rather it comes to teach us that there is a unique guarantee from Hashem Yitbarach, and this isn’t even an assurance from a prophet, but literally from Hashem’s mouth as it were.

However we must consider the following:

It states, “…you might ask,  ‘What will we eat in the seventh year? We have not planted nor have we harvested crops!’” Only then Hashem responds with, “I will direct My blessing to you in the sixth year, and [the land] will produce enough crops for three years”. It appears that [only] if a person will ask what will be eat, then Hashem will activate His berachah. But what will happen if a person trusts in Hashem, fulfils all the mitzvot with a pure heart? He won’t ask what will we eat! He is trusted to fulfil what the Torah commands him! Will such a person not have the assurance of, “I will direct My blessing”? Surely this cannot be the case! If so, why does the Torah relate the berachah specifically after the person asks, what shall we eat?

This may be explained as follows. If for example a person has a field of crops and he was used to an annual production of 50 tonnes, this is sufficient for one year, so if they are a G-d-fearing person, they would take those 50 tonnes also in the sixth year and store them as they normally would. Then they will take from them and eat and trade as required. They will then take, and take and take and take, and it will not deplete until the end of the eighth year! The berachah will rest on their handiwork! How is this possible? There was after all only 50 tonnes! Just as every other year! But here there is a berachah on the produce, they take and from Heaven they fill what is missing! In this way they are able to eat for the duration of three years. This is how it will play out for someone who trusts in Hashem!

But there is another person who doesn’t have as much trust in Hashem. They hear that they must forsake their fields for a full year! They immediately perk up and ask, what? How will we manage? What shall we eat?! They sit and cry due to the Torah’s mitzvah!

Hashem responds to them: You are afraid? Don’t fear? Go for it, you will see that at the end of the sixth year you will have 150 tonnes of produce! Three times more than one year! “I will direct My blessing to you in the sixth year, and [the land] will produce enough crops for three years”!

However, here the berachah isn’t as complete, because this person ordinarily has 50 tonnes to manage each year, but this year they must hire extra workers that will assist to store all of the produce. Plus they will have to hire extra granaries in order to store everything.

This is the Torah’s intention. If you say, “What will we eat?” Then, you will see that you do have enough to eat but that the berachah won’t be as far-reaching, not with such open arms. But for the person that has [greater] trust, they don’t need such an overt berachah, rather, “He who walks in innocence will walk securely” (Proverbs 10:9). They only have to trust in Hashem and from Heaven they will assist them in a phenomenally unique way, with a distinctive berachah!

Therefore, every person should learn regarding all their business activities, “You must remember that it is Hashem your G-d who gives you the power to become prosperous” (Devarim 8:18), Hashem says, “Mine is the silver and mine is the gold” (Haggai 2:8). A person may err and think that it is with their strength that they merit to respectfully prosper, in the merit of degrees that they studied for in university, they are wealthy! But this is vacuous, “…nor does bread come to the wise, riches to the intelligent”! (Kohelet 9:11).

It once happened to a person who was from an ordinary family, from a struggling family. His parents didn’t send him to school therefore he didn’t know how to read or write. He was totally uneducated and couldn’t even sign his name. When he matured and went out to find employment to earn a living, but who would employ such a person?

One day, the gabbai of the Bet HaKenesset said to him, I am looking for a shamash for the Bet HaKenesset who will clean and collet funds, and do all the required chores for the Bet HaKenesset, are you interested? The young man responded, sure! Happy to!

The young man began to work, one, two, three days. The gabbai paid him for his work. It is known that in the Bet HaKenesset when people are called to the Torah that they sometimes donate to the Bet HaKenesset. One day people came to the shamash and said to him, here is the money that we pledged to the Bet HaKenesset, please give us a receipt! The shamash said to them, a receipt? I’m unable to issue receipts! I cannot even read and write! They said, what type of shamash is this? He cannot even read?! They turned to the gabbai. The gabbai listened and immediately fired him! I need a shamash who can write!

The young man was unemployed, what did he do? He took a wheelbarrow and placed some bric-a-brac in it, a fountain pen, sunglasses and similar items. He began shouting, “Everything for a dollar, everything for a dollar!” People came forward and within 5 minutes he was sold out!

He saw his progress and again filled his wheelbarrow, over and over again. Within a few minutes all of his merchandise was sold, and he began to earn a good income…

He said to himself isn’t it great what I’m doing. But a policeman may catch me and fine me and then I’ll lose everything! He obtained a trading license and opened a small shop with the money that he had already earned. He then began to sell in the shop and again success shone on him. They all came to buy from him as if there were no other shops! He prospered and prospered until he outgrew the store and purchased a “Shufra-sal” store and then he really began to become wealthy. Eventually he sold that shop and began to only trade in wholesale! He only sold by the kilo, only complete crates, full sacks!

One evening, a large scale trader came to purchase merchandise. The trader said to him, look we have a huge deal let’s sign the contract! The young man replied, “Contract?? I don’t know what a contract is! I cannot even sign my name! The trader retorted, “You don’t know how to sign?! How can such a successful trader like yourself not know how to sign?”

He replied, “Baruch Hashem that I don’t know how to sign! If I knew how to sign I would still be a shamash of a Bet HaKenesset!”

We have learnt that wealth isn’t dependent on wisdom! But rather on what Hashem decrees for a person, this will be his livelihood! Everything is from Heaven!

Shabbat Shalom!