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Behar: Ralbag: From Sinai

The 6th of Iyar is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Levi ben Gershon (Ralbag), philosopher, and commentator on Chumash: “God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall observe a Sabbath for God (Vayikra 25:1-2).” What is the connection between Shemittah and Sinai? (Rashi)


It was necessary for the Torah to reconnect its teachings to Sinai, since the story of the blasphemer concluded the previous portion. The story is presented as a law that was decided at the moment, and could therefore be understood as a break from Sinai; all teachings from this point on were not taught at Sinai. Therefore the Torah reminds us that the laws that follow were taught at Sinai.

This portion connects to the previous, Emor, in an additional way: The laws of Shemittah serve the same purpose as the laws of the Festivals in Emor, in that it reconnects us to God. The Shemittah “rest” must be as that of Shabbat and Festivals; a time of becoming closer to God.

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