This weeks Sidrah begins with the mitzvah of Shmittah.
Hashem commands Moshe to instruct Bnai Yisroel that every seventh
year they must refrain from working the land. The Torah emphasizes
that HaShem informed Moshe of this halacha - on Mt. Sinai. In
one of Rashis most famous commentaries on Chumash,
Rashi, quoting the Toras Kohanim, asks Ma Inyan Shmitah
Etzel Har Sinai, why was it necessary for the Torah
to state Har Sinai, the obvious geographic location where
the laws of shmittah were taught. We know that all the commandments
were taught at Mt. Sinai. (Rashis phraseology has become
a popular expression, implying the irrelevance of a particular
fact to a given context.)
It is interesting to note that while the question that Rashi
asks is commonly expressed and even correctly applied, the seemingly
simple meaning of Rashis answer is actually quite puzzling.
Rashi, quoting the Medrash, answers that the reason that the
Torah identified Mt. Sinai as the place where the laws of shmittah
were commanded, teaches us that just as all of the laws of Shmittah
were taught at Mt. Sinai including their general guidelines
and specifications, in this manner all the laws of the Torah
were instructed. Thorough consideration of this answer reveals
that Rashis original question does not seem to have been
addressed. The question remains: What is the connection between
Shmittah and Mt. Sinai? According to Rashis answer, it
would seem that any other Mitzvah could have been associated
with Mt. Sinai to teach us the same principle.
The Kli Chemdah offers a beautiful explanation to teach
a fundamental belief in Judaism, the eternity of the Torah.
Generations come and go, times change but the laws of the Torah(which
were written by G-d, Whose existence is beyond time,) are not
bound by time and not subject to change. For this reason, the
Torah stressed that Shmittah was taught at Mt. Sinai. In the
middle of the desert, to a generation that would never fulfill
this mitzvah, HaShem chose to elaborate on the laws of Shmittah
and include even their finest details to demonstrate the eternal
nature of the Torah. Additionally, the main lesson of Shmittah,
that sacrificing ourselves to keep mitzvos will guarantee a
life of blessing and prosperity is one that is particularly
appropriate for all generations.
Perhaps, this is the meaning of the answer given by Rashi. If
even the laws of Shmittah, despite the fact that they would
not be fulfilled by the generation to whom they were taught,
were nonetheless expounded upon with all their intricacies,
because they would be applicable in the future, so too every
mitzvah, especially those that would need to be followed immediately,
were transmitted with all their details at Mt. Sinai.
To develop this point one step further, the Kli
Chemdah suggests, that the reason that the Torah was given in
the desert in the first place was for the very same reason.
Since their sustenance was provided through the manna and therefore
they were relieved of financial pressures, many of the complex
financial laws should not have been relevant to them. This further
demonstrates that HaShem wanted to teach them as well as us
that the laws of the Torah are not bound by time and are indeed
Point to Ponder: The Kli Chemdas statement that the
Bnai Yisroel would not have found the complex financial
laws relevant while they were in the desert bears investigation.
The verses at the beginning of Parshas Yisro imply that on the
contrary, there were so many financial disputes that Moshe found
it necessary to set up a judicial system since he was unable
to judge all the cases himself.
by the Chicago Community Kollel
May 22, 1997