Midreshet Amit


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Parshat Behar

By: Lauren Levy

This week's parsha, Parshat Behar, begins by describing the laws of the Shmita year. Shmita, a year of rest for the land, a year when the Jewish people are not permitted to plant or tend to their fields, occurs once every seven years. After seven cycles of seven years comes the year of Yovel. We can compare the mitzvah of Shmita and the seven cycles of seven years to the mitzvah commanded in last week's parsha, to count Sefirat HaOmer, seven cycles of seven weeks, leading up to Shavuot. The two mitzvot are quite similar, but there is one significant difference between them: the commandment to count the Omer is written in the plural, saying "u-sefartem lachem," whereas the commandment to count the years is written in the singular form, as it says "ve-safarta lecha." We know from Torah Sheh B'aal Peh that this difference is necessary to distinguish who is supposed to be doing the counting. Written in the plural form, the mitzvah of counting the Omer is directed towards everyone and is supposed to be counted by all. The responsibility of counting the years, however, falls on the shoulders of the Beit Din, and it is therefore written in the singular form. 

From this difference we can learn an important lesson in the role of leadership in Judaism. The commandment for the individual is to count the days, to focus on tomorrow. A leader, however, must be able to see the long-term consequences of today's actions. No leader can be successful without this ability to think about long-term goals. Ben Zoma asked, "Who is wise?" and answered, "One who foresees the consequences." 

A prime example of this is Moshe, who questioned the Jews as they were leaving Egypt on how they would re-tell this story to their children in later years? In the middle of all the chaos of leaving Egypt, Moshe still had the ability to foresee that this would be an integral part of educating the future children and made sure to remind the Jews to pay attention as they were leaving. Moshe's ability to always be thinking ahead is part of what made him such a great leader.

Another interesting thing about the Mitzvah of Shmita, is that it proves that Hashem Himself gave us the Torah. To command an agrarian society to refrain from farming for an entire year, once every seven years, is so completely crazy, that no one except for Hashem Himself could've commanded us to do so.