Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Parsha Behar-Bechukotai – Shmita – Learning Reliance On Hashem

When I was a bachur learning in Eretz Yisroel, I returned to America in the summer to earn money for the following year in Yeshiva. One summer, I was working as an intern for an investor on Wall Street. The salary was quite good, but it was not enough cover all my expenses for the following year. Still, the internship was valuable, and the salary was better than anywhere else. As I thanked my boss on my last day, telling him I was going back to Israel to study, he handed me a wad of bills saying this was a “bonus.” When I came home to count the bills, I was floored: it totaled the exact amount of money I still needed for the next year.

I often think of this episode when learning the laws of Shmita (leaving farmland fallow every seventh year). Truthfully, it’s hard for us in the Diaspora to appreciate the challenges of Shmita, because how many Jewish farmers do we know? Yet, anyone who owns his own business can begin to visualize what it would mean to close shop for a week, let alone for an entire year. What will happen with his clients? How will he pay the mortgage or rent with no money coming in? How will he survive such a challenge? It’s virtually inconceivable. And really…it’s not just a year. The next year, he has to start from scratch with nothing on the shelf and no money in the bank.

It’s easy to understand why the Midrash labels the topic of Shmita as the paradigm of placing one’s reliance on Hashem.

The commentators ask a very compelling question. The Torah says explicitly “If you shall say ‘what shall I eat during Shmita,’ I will give a blessing and the sixth year will bear enough fruit to eat for three years.” How could anyone then be worried? The bumper crop of the sixth year will produce three times the normal amount, filling the storehouses. What is the major need for bitachon (faith) in Hashem?

The Kli Yakar answers that Hashem can give blessings in different ways. One of them is to make a small amount last for a long time. For example, when I was in my teens and twenties, I had an extremely fast metabolism. I needed to eat large quantities of food for each meal. Yet, I wouldn’t gain a single pound! When I got married, my wife had to cook as if we were four! On the other hand, I had a friend who was full after eating just one slice of bread. This is what Rashi is referring to when he explains the blessing in Parshas Bechukosai — the food will be blessed in one’s stomach. Just a little will fully suffice.

This is the blessing of Shmita. The produce of the sixth year will be the regular amount, but it will last for three years. This requires bitachon – a belief that Hashem will provide as promised, even though it looks like the blessing is not there. It takes true faith to expect the income of just one year to stretch for three. It would seem that this degree of bitachon is reserved only for people on a very high level; however, the requirement of Shmita is for every Jew. Apparently, then, every Jew is able to be on this level, with the proper effort.

We are confronted with concerns and challenges every day. How will we afford our current and future expenses? How will we be able to fulfill the demands of our jobs? If we follow the lesson of Shmita — to place our reliance on Hashem – we may then find that the resources we have will, with Hashem’s help, be more than adequate to deal with all our issues and needs. Hashem has many ways and means to provide for our needs. Let us follow the advice of King David in Tehillim (55:23): “Cast your burdens on Hashem and he will sustain you.”


From The Editor – The Center Of The World

If you ever looked at a child’s scalp, you will see a wondrous phenomenon. At the top center of the head the hair swirls around in circles extending out, almost mimicking the beginning of a universe. As adults we retain the exact same blueprint, though in children we see it in greater detail.

What’s the significance? The Talmud in Sanhedrin teaches: Bishvili nivra ha’olam – “the world was created for me.” This statement applies with greatest potency to a newly born child, as his first innocent breath exists closer in time to the beginning of the universe than his elders, which is symbolized in his circular, universe-like, hair sprouting. Therefore, this world, literally, in real time was created for him. Generally speaking, the child becomes the adult who, as well, is at the center of the universe that was created for him.

We know the Gemara in Kiddushin states that there are three partners in the creation of the child, the two parents and G-d himself. Therefore, a child is not a linear birth but a circular interconnected one. This partnership leads to the growth of a child who ultimately becomes an adult.

But let’s investigate the most important lesson of this circular physical manifestation on the surface of the child’s head. The head ” mind,” represents the intellectual curve of man. We are familiar with the notion, Hakol holech achar harosh– “everything goes after the beginning.” But based on drash we may interpret the statement differently to say, “everything goes after the mind.” The intellect of man must ultimately decide the trajectory of his actions, a concept that inherently exists in the mind from birth.

Here I would like to introduce a concept my late relative, Rav Avrohom Genechovsky Zt”l, previous rosh yeshiva of Tchebin, said over to me. He said, one must look to the universe to learn how to behave. The majority the surface of the world is covered by water, the center is made up of fire and the inner core is rock-solid. Therefore, on the outside we must be like water, flexible and understanding with our neighbor, our center must be guided by fire, namely the Torah and our inner core must be rock-solid in terms of our belief system.

Approaching Shavuos we can look at models of the universe to prepare. Let us become like the circular curvatures of our mind and mimic the world which is flexible on the outside, fiery in the center and rock-solid within.


Chronological Order

Behar, Bechukotai and Bamidbar preface Shavuos. The order of parshios always takes on significance, especially those close to Matan Torah. All three parshios begin with the letter beis, symbolic of the Torah that begins with the letter beis. More importantly though, Behar signifies the lofty experience of Matan Torah followed by Bechukotai that represents our blind devotion which will ultimately lead us to Bamidbar that hints to us how to behave with the Torah, to reach a state of humility like the desert, where no loftiness is present.