Thursday, May 15, 2008

Behar: The Land Which I *Give* You, not The Land Which I Sell You

Another cute devar Torah taken from Meshech Chochma. Parshas Behar begins:

א וַיְדַבֵּר ה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, בְּהַר סִינַי לֵאמֹר. 1 And the LORD spoke unto Moses in mount Sinai, saying:
ב דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם, כִּי תָבֹאוּ אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי נֹתֵן לָכֶם--וְשָׁבְתָה הָאָרֶץ, שַׁבָּת לַה. 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the LORD.
Why asher ani noten lachem? Meshech Chochma notes a dispute between Rabbi Akiva and the Rabanan, which occurs for example in Bava Basra 64b:

דרבי עקיבא סבר מוכר בעין יפה מוכר ורבנן סברי מוכר בעין רעה מוכר

When one sells land, does he do generously and in a heartfelt manner, hoping the person will enjoy it, plant it, gather in the fruits, and so on? Only according to Rabbi Akiva, but according to the Rabanan, he does not, but rather intends beayin raah. While this may be disputed, all would agree that when one gives land as a gift, he does so בעין יפה. Therefore, the Torah takes care to specify אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי נֹתֵן לָכֶם.

Now, it seems unlikely that the intent of this pasuk was to make sure not to take sides in a Tannaitic dispute. And Hashem is not about to say "which I sell to you," for this does not make sense. Yet once again, it is an extremely creative connection to draw.

And perhaps can be read as reinforcing a theme in the pesukim. After all, the next verses read:
ג שֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים תִּזְרַע שָׂדֶךָ, וְשֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים תִּזְמֹר כַּרְמֶךָ; וְאָסַפְתָּ, אֶת-תְּבוּאָתָהּ. 3 Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the produce thereof.
ד וּבַשָּׁנָה הַשְּׁבִיעִת, שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן יִהְיֶה לָאָרֶץ--שַׁבָּת, לַה: שָׂדְךָ לֹא תִזְרָע, וְכַרְמְךָ לֹא תִזְמֹר. 4 But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath unto the LORD; thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.
Thus, as Meshech Chochma noted, this land was being given to be enjoyed and worked. Thus, six years you shall sow, and prune, and gather, as in pasuk 3. Hashem wants us to enjoy the land. That there is a restriction on the 7th year is not because Hashem does not want to us to enjoy the land, but for a different reason -- perhaps recognition of Hashem's role, and that it is a gift from God, and so on.

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