Shoin! Everyone seems to agree that the number 7 is a lucky number and who knows?Maybe it is. In fact, said the medrish (Vayikra Rabbah 29:9) azoy: “All sevens are beloved”. Who wouldn’t prefer seven over six, if you chap. Even Jewish 7s are, at times, beloved. Avada you know that the RBSO rested on the 7th day, and proclaimed the heylige shabbis which gets many Toirah shout-outs, including yet one more at the very end of this week’s parsha.
And in Pirkey Ovois, Perek hey (Ethics of our Fathers 5), which you should all be learning this time of year,we read azoy: Seven traits characterize an uncultivated person, and seven a learned one. A learned person (1) does not begin speaking before one who is greater than he in wisdom or in years; (2) does not interrupt the words of his fellow; (3) does not answer impetuously; (4) questions with relevance to the subject and replies accurately; (5) discusses first things first and last things last; (6) about something he has not heard he says, “I have not heard”; and (7) acknowledges the truth. The reverse of these characterize an uncultivated person.” Shoin, too late for most of you, but still hope for others.
Said the Maharal of Prague: one should never interpret the words of our Sages as being casual statements. Rather, if they said that seven traits characterize a learned person, it must be because this number is fitting; no more and no less. Intellect, which is the hallmark of a learned person, must be orderly. The number seven represents order, for order requires equilibrium. The reason that seven represents equilibrium is that something that is at equilibrium is: (1) in just the right place, not (2) too high, (3) too low, (4) too far out front, (5) too far behind, (6) too far to the right, or (7) too far to the left. Shoin! We can assume that the Maharal, were he to see life as the Taliban rabbis want us to live it today, would not be a happy camper.
And this for the shabbis tish (same source):The last of the seven traits listed demonstrate the importance of order and equilibrium. The word “emes” / “truth” is made up of three letters that appear in the word in alphabetical order.One letter from the beginning of the alphabet, one from the middle, and one from the end. Thus, the word “emes” is an orderly word that stands on solid foundations. The opposite is the case with the word “sheker” / “falsehood.”
Ober, what has all this seven talk to do with our parsha? Nu, soon we’ll tie it together so gishmak, mamish. So happens that this week in Parsha Behar, we will be introduced, as we are yearly in the weeks before the easy toobserve and happy Yom Tov of Shavuois, to the laws concerningShemita. What is Shemita? Vart-a minit (wait just one minute), soon we’ll expound. And is this relevant today? Not exactly ober it so happens that the next Shemitayear will be the year 5775 after Creation, which, according to many, runs from Sept. 25, 2014 through Sept. 13, 2015.
Lommer lernin (let’s learn). Says the heylige Toirah azoy: And the RBSO spoke to Moishe on Har Sinai saying: Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: When you shall come into the land which I give you, then the land shall rest a Shabbaton unto the Lord. Six years you shall seed your field and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in the produce. But on the seventh year it shall be a Shabbaton of holy rest for the land. A Shabbis for the RBSO, your field you shall not seed and your vineyard you shall not prune…
What the hec is Shemita? Literally it means a “release“: zicher not what you are thinking, chazir that you are. It means that every farmer and land owner in the land of Israel is commanded to leave his farmland, his vineyard and orchard and stop all agricultural activity. He must refrain from plowing, seeding, reaping, fertilizing, planting, pruning and gathering both the fruit from the trees and the vegetables of the ground. Nu, for all you farmers out there, if you chap, going a year without plowing, seeding, reaping, fertilizing, planting and pruning, seems a shtikel harsh. For married farmers, going one year without, may be a shorter time period than they are used to, if you chap. Ober there is good news: Seemingly plowing and other such activities, outside the land, are quite ok, if you chap.
Shemita, like the holy Shabbis, comes in cycles of sevens and like the Shabbis, certain activities are forbidden. Ober, unlike the 25 hour Shabbis, depending of course on which shul you attend, Shemita lasts an entire year.
Why did the RBSO proclaim Shemita? Ver veyst ober some say it was to reinforce the concept that we are not the masters of our destiny. Nu, that’s no big chiddish (newsworthy); most of you have not been masters of your domain since high school, if you chap. With Shemita observance, we taka learn that the RBSO is the real owner of the world and it is He, not us, that makes the final decisions. Shoin!
When was the first such 7th year? Taka a good question and one that is, of course, the subject of many discussions. For now, all you need to know is that here in golus (Diaspora), we don’t observe it all and won’t until the Moshiach makes an appearance. Over in the Promised Land, some aspects of it are observed, others, not so much. Side note: back in the days of the BeisHamkidash (temple era), lands which surrounded Israel observed certain customs of Shemita. Why? Seemingly, Shemita became a shtikel nuisance, when it conflicted with the ability to maintain a Jewish presence in the land, when letting the land lie fallow would have had deleterious effects, especially on their pocketbooks. The rabbis did what rabbis should do, what rabbis used to do; they sprang into action.
Ober, could they ignore Toirah law? Chas v’sholom!Instead they used their ingenuity to design the ‘hetermechirah’, (a legal fiction of a sale) to neutralize the effects of the Shemita year. Shoin, now the goy could buy our chometz and our land! Who said Goyim were only good for lights and air conditioning on Shabbis? Seemingly, because of a concept called hefsid-miruba (great monetary loss) and in order to prevent mutiny and non-observance, the fast thinking and progressive rabbis of that time (bring them back, please) came up with perhaps the second biggest loophole in the entire Jewish religion, the old let’s sell our land to a goy trick.Most of us Avada still consider the ‘selling of chometz to a goy’ routine, as the biggest of all loopholes ober, we can chap that land has more value than does chometz. In this iteration, the poor farmer who cannot plow or seed- taka a disaster for most- if you chap, enters into a similar transaction. More on that another day.
Avada we chap that legal loopholes are a mainstay of kimat every religion and profession. Seemingly our good and knowledgeable rabbis of old, also found ways to weave these into the heylige Toirah, especially when it came to money matters, and why not? The RBSO doesn’t want His people to struggle for parnoso. And taka in the nineteenth century, when the Yiddin made their way back to EY (Israel) and began farming, many of the greatest rabbinic authorities permitted–even encouraged–the “selling” of the land to goyim, effectively eliminating this fundamental mitzvah. And noch a broch (another disaster): Shemita also nullifies any outstanding personal debt. What? Did you just read that one can borrow money from his chaver (friend), wait seven years (less if one borrowed funds closer to Shemita) and then tell the lender that his debt is cancelled- expired and otherwise null and void due to Shemita? Indeed you did. This is called ShemitasKisofim, yet another release and not a very pleasant one. Moreover, you, the lender are violating a loisah-say (negative prohibition) if you demand or even politely ask for your money back after Shemita. Nice, but is this pshat? And given these halochois (rules), how did so many Yiddin end up in the money lending gisheft (business)? Or, were they only borrowers looking forward to the Shemita no-pay-back exemption?
The bottom line is that this Shemita is no joke as it mamish wipes out loans that one gave in good faith hoping to be repaid. And why shouldn’t it? Who says that just because you were nice enough to advance a chaver in need badly needed funds, that you’re entitled to get repaid? Don’t you know that no good deed goes unpunished? Want more bad news? Bazman Hazeh (in our times), even when the laws of Yoivel are not applicable, (according to most Halachic authorities), this mitzvah of Shemitas Kesofim remains in effect (Rabbinic only). And taka why? Says the Gemora that this was instituted so that these laws would not be forgotten from Israel. Moreover, this Mitzvah applies both in Israel and here in chutzlo’oretz (Diaspora), since it is an obligation dependent on the person (Gavrah) and not on the land (Adamah). Still it doesn’t epes feel right.
Nu, what to do about this halacha? How do we operate? Would people lend money even for interest (we’ll get to that soon) in year six (or earlier) if they understood that their loans are subject to being wiped out in year seven? And which clever Yid wouldn’t stall repaying his obligations so that they could get wiped out in year seven? Brilliant mamish, ober not to worry because Toirah/shmoira and the very clever rabbis understood that business is business and that the halochois of Shemita and loan cancellation would mamish shut down the economy. Who would support their local rabbis and appoint them as their land or chometz selling agents, if they weren’t getting their loans repaid and couldn’t collect interest? Nu, when the Rabbis parnosa (livelihood) was on the line, they came up with one of the more clever loopholes ever created and named it the Pruzbil. Veyter.What is a pruzbil? Halt zicheyn (keep your pants on, you chazir farmer), soon we’ll address that and how you too, can make one. Veyter.
Says the heylige Toirah (25:35, 36) azoy: “When your brother becomes impoverished and loses the ability to support himself…do not take advance interest or accrued interest” Yet do we not regularly borrow monies from banks and others and willingly pay interest? Do we not consider it a great mitzvah to buy Israel Bonds, which pay more-than-competitive interest rates? And when was the last time you lent out money without charging epes a vig, a few points + interest? When? Never! Shoin! As an aside, when was the last time someone paid you back timely? And in order for the money business to exist, a gisheft that supported many Yiddin over the centuries, and in order not to violate this halacho from the Toirah mamish, our good and knowledgeable Rabbis who chapped that money was a key ingredient in daily life, created another loophole and called this one the ‘heter-iska’ which is another cleverly created document that converts a loan into a business partnership. And as we said mamish just above, this is very similar to another rabbinic loophole, that of mechiras chometz, the “fictitious”, according to some, sale of chometz to the goy and which spares us the necessity to actually rid our homes of chometz, thereby somehow avoiding the explicit demands of the heylige Toirah. Is the Oisvorfer suggesting that the system is corrupt mamish? Chas v’sholom!
Farkert: The Toirah expects us Yiddin to help one another, even with no expectation of reward. Ober the Rabbis also chapped that without the willingness to pay interest, few Yiddin would be properly motivated to partake in this great mitzvah. How would they buy homes or raise the necessary capital to start a business? In other words: people need motivation and stimulation, if you chap, even to do a mitzvah, and interest makes the proposition a shtikel more interesting and allows for the economy to prosper. Therefore using their Gemorakepelach (Gemora heads), they developed the ‘heteriska’, a document that makes the lender a shtikel partner, allowing him to get his ‘interest’ in the form of profits vs. interest and shoin- all is kosher, glatt. Moreover, which Yid wouldn’t want to be known as a partner vs. a lender? Shoin, it was all settled. The people were motivated and stimulated, the monies were flowing and life was good. Veyter. But isn’t interest in any form strictly verboten min hatoirah?
Says the heylige Gemora (Gittin): about a century before the destruction of the Second BeisHamikdash (Temple) a man named Hillel the Zoken (the elderly) came up with mamish a givaldige loophole, one of many that allow us Yiddin to survive on a daily basis. Hillel saw that people were avoiding lending and because they didn’t want them to commit the avayro of not lending to those who needed help (a transgression mamish) as the Shemita year approached and he solved the problem.After all, the heylige Toirah does state “VochaiBohem” (and you shall live by them) and avada we translate that to mean that if a law makes life so unbearable, we may find a way around it. Givaldig! Maybe one day they’ll also solve the two and three day Yom Tov debacle.
How does it work? Like a loophole should and the rather simple Pruzbil does the trick. The Pruzbil is a mechanism by which debts are transferred from the individual to a Beis Din (religious court). By making a pruzbil, one makes his private debts public – and therefore redeemable. Shoin. Unlike other complicated contracts and even the heteriska, the pruzbil language is mamish one sentence long. “I give over to you [the Beis Din] all debts which I have, so that I may collect them any time I wish.” Ut a zoy (that’s how it’s done). Exactly how the funds are collected by the Beis Din and how they are repatriated to the original lender, nu, this I don’t know but I imagine that after the proper vig is given to Beis Din, and other referring Rabbis properly taken care of, if you chap, the rest makes its way back somehow.
And as to why Hillel was allowed to enact this loophole, we are taught that there was a pressing need, mistama a concept similar to hefsed meruba (hefty loss) which will soon allow Shuls and other schnorrers to swipe credit cards even on Shabbis following appeals. Some say that Hillel’s actions were part of “Tikkun Oilom” (fixing or improving the world) which is avada a central tenet of our beautiful religion. Hillel is credited with bringing about Tikkun Oilom – a contribution to a just and well-functioning society. Hillel was a good man!
Shoin, enough Shemita talk. Want more? Find it at www.oisvorfer.com. Ober let’s get back to #49.
And if the number 7 is lucky and beloved by the RBSO, you can only imagine how lucky 7×7, or 49 might be, and this week, wewill taka begin with a shtikel focus on the number 49. Why not? The RBSO put this number into play last week, it’s featured again in this week’s parsha of Behar and will be featured again next week when we say goodbye, for now, to Sefer Vayikro.
This week, the RBSO is back with another 49 count. Says the heylige Toirah (Vayikro 25: 8-13) azoy: “You shall count for yourselves seven cycles of Sabbatical years, seven years, seven times; shall be for forty nine years…You shall sanctify the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom throughout the land for all of its inhabitants; it shall be the Jubilee year for you, you shall return each human being to his ancestral heritage…; You shall not sow, you shall not reap its after-growth and you shall not gather even what was already set aside-the year shall be holy to you.”
This week we need to count seven cycles of seven years, each such cycle called Shemita, and then during the seventh month of the 49th year, we proclaim Yoivel (jubilee) and all hell breaks loose. All slaves are freed, certain land reverts back to its previous owners,and, of course, you all recall that the land goes untilled.
And here we are taka in the midst of the sefira when we count up a full 49 days which correspond to the seven weeks after the Exodus from Egypt when the Yiddin were busy preparing themselves to receive the heylige Toirah on Har Sinai. And why did the Yiddin have to wait until the 50th day to receive the Toirah? And did we not come across this #49 back is Sefer Shemois? Indeed we did and says the medrish that the RBSO felt compelled mamish to remove the Yiddin from Mitzrayim and slavery because they had sunk down to the 49th level of tumah (impurity). In fact, had they sunk down just one more, to the 50th, it would have been too late, they would have been doomed. Ober didn’t we learn that the Yiddin were freed because they had not changed names, their language and their clothing?
Nu, let’s tie it all together. It’s taka emes that over 210 years, the Yiddin were quite bad and seemingly behaved like the Mitzrim in certain respects. And it could also be emes thatthey taka didn’t change their clothing or language oreven their names. Nu, there are many people who wear nice livush (garb) that are chazerim; nothing new here. Seemingly, they repented and during the 49 day count, they elevated themselves from shmutz, day by day, and on the 49th day, they were cleaned up. In fact, Moishe reminded them to taka take a final bath in advance of the AseresHadibrois (Ten Commandments) which were coming on day 50. Ober, how did we climb out? Ver veyst? But somehow, during the 49 days, the Yiddin seemed to elevate their game.
As we said above, for the most part,Shemita is not observed here in Golus and the concept of Yoivel is mamish suspended altogether, both here and over in Israel. Says the Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 11:1.Sh’mita V’Yovel 10:8.12:16 ) azoy: Moshiach will bring back the laws of Shemita and Yoivel just as they were before. Until he arrives, the laws of Shemita and Yoivel do not fully apply.
Ober, given that we taka observe some Shemita laws over in Israel in our times,why is there no Yoivel ?Taka an excellent kasha. Like everything else, it depends on who you ask; there are of course many opinion. Here’s one: Because the heylige Toirah in its Yoivel instructions, states that we need ‘kolyoishveha’ — all the Yiddin-needto be living there, we only observe Yoivel when all twelve shevotim (tribes) are living in Israel. Ober in the 6th century BCE the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel and sent the majority of its population into exile. Those who were deported are historically known as the Ten Lost Tribes. Shoin, until we find them, no more Yoivel.
Of course you recall learning that one day the Moshiach will lead the Yiddin out of golus and back to the Promised Land. Others will roll over. Yoivel will return and all will be good. Next week, we will close out seferVayikra with the reading of parshas Bichukoisi which is mostly known for the Toichocho, the admonitions or curses. How many? 49!
A gittin Shabbis
The Oisvorfer Ruv