By Rabbi Mordechai Young
On March 29, 1982, the North Carolina Tar Heels were playing a championship game versus the Georgetown Hoyas. It was a very close game. The Hoyas were up by one, with 20 seconds left. As the Tar Heels passed the ball around, the defense thought it would obviously be given inside to a big man for an easier shot. The ball was passed to the side, where a freshman caught it and hit the jump shot. The freshman was Michael Jordan. The shot gave him confidence that he could be a clutch player a team can lean on. This, of course, helped him in his NBA career.
This week’s parashah begins with stating that Hashem spoke to Moshe at Har Sinai. It is interesting that the pasuk mentions that Hashem spoke at Har Sinai regarding the mitzvah of Shemittah. This leads Rashi to ask: What is the connection between Shemittah, the mitzvah Hashem taught to Moshe Rabbeinu, and Har Sinai? All of the mitzvos were taught at Har Sinai, so why does the pasuk connect specifically to Shemittah? Rashi answers that just as with Shemittah the general as well as the specific details of the commandment were taught at Har
Sinai, so, too, was this the case with all the mitzvos.
Why is the mitzvah of Shemittah used to teach this idea? For the nation to receive the Torah at Har Sinai we said “Na’aseh v’nishma: We will do and we will listen.” It was amazing that there was an unquestioning acceptance of the whole Torah without knowing what one was agreeing to. This was based on trusting our King, Hashem, that He is only doing what is best for us. To fulfill the mitzvah of Shemittah and not work the land during the seventh year is very difficult. The people have no vision of the future and how they will have food to eat. They must trust Hashem, Who will provide for them. Hashem is reminding them that they have the strength to pass this test: Remember, accepting the Torah and not knowing what the future will hold (which mitzvah will be performed) revealed great trust in Hashem. Here, too, don’t be afraid; you can pass this test.
At Har Sinai the nation wanted to hear the Torah directly from Hashem. They did not want Moshe Rabbeinu to be the intermediary. Hashem agreed, and at Har Sinai the first commandment was heard directly from Hashem. We know the Midrash teaches that their souls flew out of their bodies as they could not handle hearing the awesome kedushah directly from Hashem. They were brought back to life to hear the next commandment. Once again they could not handle it. After being revived again, they requested to hear the commandments from Moshe Rabbeinu. So, at Har Sinai the nation saw firsthand that life and death is in Hashem’s control. With reference to Shemittah, a person could be scared for his life that he won’t have enough to eat. Hashem reminds us that life is in His hand. Don’t be nervous about parnassah; He will provide. Hashem asks we do our part, the mitzvah, and Hashem does His “part,” providing for us, and giving us the sustenance to live.
So, we see it could be this mitzvah of Shemittah specifically was chosen as the example that reveals that the totality of every mitzvah was taught at Har Sinai. This was to give strength to perform the mitzvah of Shemittah. It is always a good idea to draw on past experiences to give strength to fulfill new tests. Also, we remember Hashem created us. He provides for us, which helps fulfill the mitzvah (Shemittah). This is a good guiding principle to remember in general.
Rabbi Mordechai Young lives in the Five Towns with his wife and children. He teaches Torah and is available as a tutor/remedial rebbe. He can be reached for comments at email@example.com.