ר"ע תיתד תונויצל ינויערה גוחה ,םולשו זוע
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AT THE END OF EVEN YEARS YOU SHALL MAKE A SHEMITAH [REMISSION]. THIS SHALL BE THE NATURE OF THE SHEMITAH: EVERY CREDITOR SHALL REMIT THE DUE THAT HE CLAIMS FROM HIS FELLOW; HE SHALL NOT DUN HIS FELLOW OR KINSMAN, FOR THE REMISSION PROCLAIMED IS FOR THE LORD.
To abandon debts in the Shemitah year, about which it is said but you must remit whatever is due you from your kinsman (Devarim 15:1). The charge of this commandment is made twice, for it is said This shall be the nature of the Shemitah: every creditor shall remit the due, and in the Tosefta they said that Scripture refers to two shemitot, one relating to land, the other to money.
I already wrote what I know regarding the reasons for this commandment in [the section on] the Shemitah of lands in [parashat] Mishpatim (commandment #84); the Shemitah of money is explained the same way, to teach our souls high virtues - the virtues of kindheartedness and generosity, to instill great trust in the blessed Lord in our hearts. Then our souls will be prepared to receive beneficence from the Master of all in blessedness and mercy. We shall also find in it a strong fence and a wall of iron to keep us far from stealing and coveting anything belonging to our fellow, for we shall make an a fortiori argument in our minds, saying: "Even if I lent my wealth and the Shemitah year arrived, the Torah told me to remit the claim against the debtor - certainly I should distance myself radically from stealing or coveting his property!
(Sefer HaHinukh # 477)
For the Shemitah year also gives rise to solidarity and peace. This occurs because one does not sew seed and grow [crops] and the poor can eat [whatever grows by itself], for one is prohibited from acting as the land-owner and taking hold of the seventh year's grain. All of this doubtlessly causes peace, since all conflicts derive from the trait of "mine is mine," i.e., "it is all mine." All of this is less evident in the seventh year, because while action [i.e. agricultural production] involves inequality, all are equal in inaction, and that is really what peace is about.
(Keli Yakar Devarim 31:12)
"The Curse in the Blessing and the Blessing in the Curse"
See, this day I set before you a blessing and a curse. The blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I enjoin upon you this day; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn away from the path that I enjoin upon you this day and follow other gods whom you have not known. (Devarim 11:26-28)
The parasha's opening passage offers two alternatives: the way of the blessing and the way of the curse. The blessing comes when we hearken to God's commandments and observe them; the curses come if we do not listen to God's voice. Apparently, it should have spoken of a punishment rather than a curse: "And if you do not listen to God's voice" - "you shall be punished" - why a "curse"? Perhaps the solution is that the blessing and the curse are interwoven? Every blessing can be a curse and curses can bring a kind of blessing.
Rabbi Haim ben Atar explains:
That is why He says this day I set before you a blessing and a curse. This means that the blessing is also a curse - tranquility for the wicked in this world...
...it becomes clearer in light of their dictum (here in the Sifrei): It is like someone who sat at a crossroads. There were two paths before him, one started smoothly but ended in thorns, the other began with thorns but ended smoothly. He would tell the passersby: "You see this path that begins smoothly? After two or three steps... and its end...
When He says to them this day I set before you etc. He refers to two different types of good things. Each of them involves a blessing and a curse; the path of the wicked begins smoothly and ends in thorns - that is a blessing and a curse. The way of life starts with thorns and ends smoothly - that is also a blessing and a curse... When He said a blessing and a curse - that means that this gift involves both a blessing and a curse. He continued and explained the blessing: if you obey - meaning: "If you obey, then this gift will be a blessing for you, but if you do not listen it will only be a curse; because of it all the nations shall be jealous of you and remove you from it [the land] with great vengeance." The benefit they draw from it shall also be their loss in the eternal world, as is says, Who instantly requites with destruction those who hate Him (Devarim 7:10). (Or Ha'Hayyim Devarim 11:26)
It appears that man decides if it is a blessing or a curse. Accordingly, deep contemplation is required; sometimes that which seems to be a blessing is actually a curse and vis-versa. The emphasis on today teaches us to think about tomorrow.
Later in the parasha, the Torah commands that those who preach idolatry be killed (be they individuals or an entire community). How is this commandment a blessing?
An individual who promotes idolatry is sentenced to death as is anyone who commits a capital crime. However, in the case of an ir hanidahat [a town that must be destroyed because it is completely involved in idolatry] (Devarim 13:13-19), the punishment is collective:
If you hear it said, of one of the towns that the Lord your God is giving to you to dwell in, that some scoundrels from among you have gone and subverted the inhabitants of their town, saying, "Come , let us worship other gods" - whom you have not known - you shall investigate and inquire and interrogate thoroughly. If it is true, the fact is established - that abhorrent thing was perpetrated in your midst - put the inhabitants of that town to the sword. Doom it and all that is in it to destruction: gather all its spoils into the open square, and burn the town and all its spoils completely to the Lord your God. And it shall remain an everlasting ruin, never to be rebuilt... in order that the Lord may turn from His blazing anger and show you compassion, and in His compassion increase you as He promised your father on oath - for you will be heeding the Lord your God... doing what is right in the sight of he Lord your God. (Devarim 13:13-19)
R. Akiva said to him: And how would I explain the fulfillment of [the verse] and show you compassion [literally: give you compassion], and in His compassion increase you? If it is about compassion for adults, it already said surely kill. If it refers to compassion for their animals, it already said destroy it and all in it and its animals. How do I explain the fulfillment of and show you compassion? It refers to the minors among them.
One is permitted to eat meat, but the consumption of blood is forbidden, because the blood is the life. On the one hand, this prohibition comes to teach us: Learn to control your urges!! On the other hand, this qualification reminds us of another commandment:
God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, "Be fertile and increase and fill the earth... Every creature that lives shall be yours to eat; as with the green grasses, I give you all these. You must not, however, eat flesh with its life-blood in it. But for your own life-blood I will require a reckoning: I will require it of every beast; of man, too, will I require a reckoning for human life, of every man for that of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in His image did God make man. (Bereishit 9:1-7)
When the Lord your God broadens your territory as he promised you, and you say: I want to eat meat... - [This verse] teaches that man enthusiastically lusts only in a situation of excessive expansion, "the lion roars only because it [possesses] a container full of meat" (Berakhot 32), therefore Scripture states: When the Lord your God broadens your boundaries - this will lead you to remove the mask of shame from your face, until you loudly proclaim, I want to eat meat - and this somewhat resembles the throwing off of the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, to seek out the site of sacrifices. The cause of all this is Should the place which God chooses be distant from you, for one's awe of the Kingdom of Heaven is proportionate to his proximity to the Temple of God, as is written, My Holy Shrine you are to hold in awe meaning that awe of the Kingdom of Heaven will be drawn upon you from the Temple; Should the place... be distant from you will result in God being far from your consciousness, therefore all day you will lust, and you will not be ashamed to proclaim I want to eat meat. I hereby permit you this thing and you shall slaughter from you cattle, etc., as I have commanded you, not at all times but occasionally, when lust becomes overwhelming.
(Kli Yakar, Devarim 12:20)
The Torah delivers a veiled admonition regarding the eating of meat; only after And you say: I want to eat meat, because your appetite craves eating meat - do we read, You may slaughter and may eat. The only way to halt your inclination is by moral control, and this control is still beyond you; it is still needed for circles closer to you. And also the further perfection requires - after the fall - physical effort, and the replenishing of this [the physical effort] occasionally demands meaty nourishment.
(Rav Kook: Tallelei Orot, Chap. 8)
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