What is Shmitta doing at Har Sinai?

Why is the Mitzva of Shmitta and Yovel, out of all of the Mitzvot of the Torah, singled out as having been given at Har Sinai.  Weren’t all of the Mitzvot given at Sinai?

The name of this week’s Parsha is B’Har Sinai – which translates as “At Mount Sinai”.  This comes from the first verse: “And H-shem spoke to Moshe at Har Sinai saying.” (Vayikra 25,1) The Torah then lists the Mitzva of Shmitta – of letting the fields in Israel lie fallow every seven years.  This is followed by the Mitzva of Yovel – the Jubilee year where all ancestral lands revert to their original owners, and Hebrew slaves go free.  The Sifra asks the question:  “What is Shmita doing being mentioned with Har Sinai.  Weren’t all of the Mitzvot given at Sinai?”  After all, here we are more than halfway through the Torah.  Most of the Mitzvot have already been mentioned.  Why is this Mitzva, of all of the Mitzvot of the Torah, singled out as having been given at Har Sinai?

The Sifra answers: “Just like laws of Shmitta were stated in its generalities and particulars at  Sinai, also all of the Mitzvot were stated in their generalities and particulars at Sinai.”  How are we to understand this?  Why was the mitzvah of Shmitta singled out to teach us this lesson?

In these days of the counting of the Omer, we are counting the seven weeks from Pesach until Shavuot.  Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah.  On Shavout night it is customary to stay up all night learning Torah in order to be prepared to receive the Torah in the morning as it was given on Har Sinai.  The counting of the Omer starts in the festival of Pesach, which is the “time of our freedom”.  But the true freedom only comes with the acceptance of the Torah from Sinai.  “The only true free person is one who involves himself in the Torah.

Just like we count seven weeks of seven days to arrive at the 50th day of the giving of the Torah, similarly the Torah describes how we count seven years and make the seventh year holy by not planting the fields.  Then we count seven years seven times, until we arrive at the 50th year.  This year is declared the Yovel (Jubilee) year.  This declaration is made by the blowing of the Shofar to “proclaim liberty throughout the land”.  All Hebrew slaves are freed, all land reverts to its ancestral owners.

There was a special prohibition of planting or grazing animals on Sinai at the giving of the Torah. At Har Sinai the Shofar was also blown.  The name given for there for the  Shofar is “Yovel”, the same name as the Jubilee year.  At Sinai we were given our freedom, and in the Yovel year we are given our freedom.  If we observe the Shmitta years and the Yovel year, we can achieve the same level of freedom as the giving of the Torah at Har Sinai.  All of the land of Israel will achieve the holiness that existed at Sinai at the giving of the Torah. (Kli Yakar)

So what is Shmitta doing at Har Sinai?  If we observe all of the Mitzvah of Shmitta and Yovel in all of its generalities and particulars we achieve freedom and holiness.  Similarly, if we observe all of the other mitzvoth in all of their generalities and particulars, we will achieve freedom and holiness.

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