Parshas Behar 5778

Hashem Relates to Each Jew according to His Spiritual Standing

דבר אל בני ישראל ואמרת אליהם” (ויקרא כה:ב)

“Speak to the children of Israel and say to them” (Vayikra 25:2)

If it already states “דבר אל בני ישראל” / “Speak to the children of Israel”, why does it add ואמרת אליהם”” / “and say to them”. It seems to be a repetition of the first statement!?

In order to answer the above question we need to take a closer look at the wording of the two sections of the posuk. Now, there are two obvious differences between the first and second sections:

1) The first section uses the wording “דבר” while the second section uses “ואמרת“.

2) The first section refers to the Jewish people as “בני ישראל” / “the children of Israel” while the second section says simply “to them”.

Now, (1) דבר / speak, is a demanding language as we find in the posuk“וידבר אתם קשות” / “And he spoke to them harshly” (Bereishis 42:7), while אמירה / say, suggests a soft speech as it states “כה תאמר לבית יעקב” / “so you shall say to the house of Yaakov” (Shemos 19:3) and Rashi explains these are the women. Speak to them in a gentle tone. (2) “דבר אל בני ישראל” / “Speak to the children of Israel” is a language of endearment while “ואמרת אליהם” / “and say to them” lacks any sign of closeness or endearment.

With the above introduction we can explain the posuk as follows: The wording of the first section “דבר אל בני ישראל” / “Speak to the children of Israel” teaches us that the path to Hashem’s endearment is lined with strict fulfillment of His commands, and this is the way of the righteous, while the second section “ואמרת אליהם” / “and say to them” refers to the rest of the Jewish people who are less stringent in their fulfillment of mitzvos, and although they don’t  merit to a special closeness to Hashem as do the righteous, the posuk teaches us that their service as well finds favor in Hashem’s eyes!

Iyar 5776

Understanding Grammatical Structure

שש שנים תזרע שדך… תזמור כרמך ואספת את תבואתה” (ויקרא כה:ג)

“Six years plant your field… trim your vineyard and gather its produce” (Vayikra 25:3)

There seems to be a grammatical difficulty in this posuk. At first it reads“שדך” “כרמך” / “your field”, “your vineyard” expressing the person’s ownership of the field. However the second half of the posuk “את תבואתה” / “its produce” tells us that the produce belongs to the field!?

In answer, we can suggest that the first section of the posuk deals with planting and harvesting which is done in the sixth year when the person has full ownership and use of the field and its produce. Therefore the work done on the land is attributed to him. The end of the posuk deals with the gathering in of the produce from the field which occurs during the winter months which is already in the seventh year at which point the owner of the field does not have exclusive rights over his field’s produce, and therefore the produce is called “the produce of the land”.

However, the very next posuk states “ובשנה השביעית… שדך לא תזרע וכרמך לא תזמור” / “And in the seventh year… you shall not plant your field and your vineyard you shall not trim” and this wording seems to contradict our above premise!?

Nevertheless, we can uphold our original premise by explaining that although the owner of the field loses the rights to his field’s produce, he still retains full ownership of the field itself. Therefore, in order to clarify this point the Torah expresses his ownership of the field here as well.

According to this, we can understand that which is written regarding the Yovel (50th) year“לא תזרעו ולא תקצרו את ספיחיה ולא תבצרו את נזיריה… מן השדה תאכלו את תבואתה” / “you shall not plant and not harvest its (the field’s) growth and you shall not harvest its grapes… from the field you shall eat its produce” (pesukim 11-12) where there is no mention the owner of the field at all. This is because regarding the Yovel year it is written “ושבתם איש אל אחוזתו” / “and you shall return each person to his land” (posuk 10), and because of this there are people who will lose their ownership of the land, whereas regarding the seventh year, although the produce becomes the property of all, the land remains in the full ownership of its present owner.

Iyar 5776

The Relationship between Overcharging Movable Items and Land

וכי תמכרו ממכר לעמיתך או קנה מיד עמיתך אל תונו איש את אחיו” (ויקרא כה:יד)

“And when you will sell an item to your fellow Jew or purchase from the hand of your fellow Jew, you shall not overcharge, a man his brother” (Vayikra 25:14)

The Gemora (Baba Matziah 58b) explains that the posuk “לא תונו איש את עמיתו” / “You shall not belittle your fellow Jew” (Vayikra 25:17) refers to verbally belittling or insulting him, and the posuk“וכי תמכרו ממכר לעמיתך או קנה מיד עמיתך” / “And when you will sell an item to your fellow Jew or purchase from the hand of your fellow Jew” refers to overcharging for movable items.

Now, the posukim immediately following our posuk deal with the selling of land before the 50th year. “לפי רב השנים תרבה מקנתו ולפי מעט השנים תמעיט מקנתו כי מספר תבואת הוא מכר לך” / “When there are many years remaining (before the 50th year) increase the sale price and when there are few years remaining lower the sale price, for the number of yields he is selling to you”. From here we learn the law of overcharging applies to property as well. So explains Rashi, that the posuk warns us not to overcharge when one sells or purchases land. Rather one should calculate how many years are remaining before the 50th year and how many crops the field can produce during that time and price the sale accordingly, for afterwards in the 50th year the land will have to be returned to the original owner. Otherwise, one will transgress the prohibition of overcharging.

According to the above, it appears that our posuk “וכי תמכרו ממכר לעמיתך” / “And when you sell an item to your fellow Jew” is out of place as here we are dealing with overcharging when selling land!?

In addition we need to ask, how come the Torah seems to be telling us that the prohibition of overcharging applies as well to land when the halacha/law specifically states (Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat Section 227 Sub-section 29) that the prohibition of overcharging does not apply to land (as brought in the Gemora (Baba Matziah 56a-b)!?

Now, the first question that our posuk seems to be out of place is answered in the Gemora (Baba Matzia 56b) that from our posuk we learn that the prohibition of overcharging applies only to movable items and not to land. For this reason our posuk is written in the section dealing with land sales.

However, this answer fortifies our second question that the Halacha is that the prohibition of overcharging does not apply to land. Is this land different than all other land!?

The Ramban answers that the question is so strong that we are forced to explain the law not only according to the simple reading of the pesukim. The Malbim clarifies the explanation of the Ramban as follows: Although the law is clear that the prohibition of overcharging does not apply to land, this is referring only to the case where all the details of the land are known and the owner wants to sell his land at an exorbitant price. However, if the owner of the field tricked the person into thinking that the field would remain his forever or he tricked the buyer regarding the size of the field or the amount of crops it can produce, then the law of overcharging does apply to land! This explanation is similar to that of Rashi brought above. The commentator Chezkuni explains in this manner as well.

In summary, we learn that the prohibition of overcharging applies in all cases where one sells movable items to another Jew, and regarding land sales it only applies if the owner of the land distorts the true size or production capabilities of the land or if the property will have to be returned to its original owner in the 50th year. However, in a case where the property will not have to be returned to its original owner in the 50th year and all the true details of the field are known to both sides, the prohibition of overcharging does not apply.

Iyar 5776

The Spiritual Quality behind Business Transactions

ולא תונו איש את עמיתו ויראת מאלקיך” (ויקרא כה:יז)

“A person shall not insult/belittle his fellow and you shall have fear of your G-d” (Vayikra 25:17)

Here the posuk warns a person not to belittle his “עמיתו” / “fellow”, and above (posuk 14) the posuk reads “אל תונו איש את אחיו” / “one shall not cause a loss to his brother”. Why is the person he is affecting called a “fellow” in our posuk and a “brother” in the above posuk?

Now, the Gemora in Baba Matziah (58b) explains that our posuk prohibits one not to insult or belittle another Jew, while the above posuk prohibits one to overcharge another Jew.

Accordingly, we can explain the particular word usage in each posuk. Regarding the prohibition of overcharging, the posuk uses the word “brother” to describe the overcharged because business transactions between people create a close bond between them similar to the bond one feels towards one’s brother.

On the other hand, in the prohibition not to insult another the word “את עמיתו” / “his fellow” is used expressing a more distant relationship for it lacks the closeness created through business relationships.

From we learn of the great kindness Hakadosh Baruch Hu showed mankind by creating man in a manner in which people will need to buy and sell goods and services to each other for through this Hakadosh Baruch Hu fills their hearts with a feeling of brotherhood which allows for a peaceful and successful community experience.

Similar to this, Rebbeinu Yona explains the meaning of the statement in Avos (3:10) “הוא היה אומר, כל שרוח הבריות נוחה הימנו רוח המקום נוחה הימנו” / “He would say, one who brings comfort to the spirit of the people, the spirit of G-d finds comfort in him”. Explains Rebbeinu Yona that this is referring to one who conducts friendly business dealings with others and that all see that he conducts himself with a deep belief that Hashem runs the world. Thus from here as well we see that honest business dealings creates a close and respectful relationship between people. (See also Gemora Yoma 86a.)

Now, regarding the prohibition of belittling it states “ויראת מאלקיך” / “and you shall have fear of your G-d” while this is not stated in the prohibition not to overcharge in business transactions. Why is this so?

The Gemora in Baba Matziah (58b) offers an answer. Rebbi Yehuda says wherever we have a case where the true quality of one’s statement or advice can be hidden in a person’s heart the posuk adds “ויראת מאלקיך”.

Additionally, we can suggest with G-d’s help, that regarding the prohibition of belittling the posuk adds “ויראת מאלקיך” in order to strengthen the connection between people so a person will not belittle his fellow Jew. However, in the prohibition of cheating another in business transactions the posuk does not include “ויראת מאלקיך“, not because Hashem refrains from mentioning His name on those who conduct business, but quite the opposite, Hashem’s Presence already rests on those who conduct honest and faithful business transactions. This is as explained above that Hakadosh Baruch Hu created man with the need to interrelate which creates a feeling of brotherhood between them. Thus, there is no need to mention here Hashem’s name by adding “ויראת מאלקיך”!

Iyar 5778

Have a nice Shabbos!

Shabbat Shalom!

Yona Vogel




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