Ma inyan Shmitta etzel har Sinai? The first pasuk in Parashas Behar tells us that Hashem gave the mitzvah of Shmittah on Har Sinai. Chaza"l ask why-why does Shmittah have more to do with Har Sinai than do all other mitzvos? As puzzling as the placement of Shmittah next to Har Sinai is, the explanation Chaza"l offer is even more puzzling. Chaza"l explain that the Torah mentions Har Sinai in the context of Shmittah to teach that "just as the laws of Shmittah were taught with all their laws and details at Sinai, so too all the mitzvos of the Torah were taught with all their laws and details at Sinai." However, this seemingly just begs the question: Why does the Torah choose Shmittah, of all mitzvos, to teach us this lesson-a lesson it seemingly could have told us by any other of the 613 mitzvos?
Rabbi Samson Rephael Hirsch suggests that, in fact, the mitzvah of Shmittah has no more to do with Har Sinai than does any other mitzvah; instead, it is the context in which Shmittah was given that makes it the prime candidate for teaching us this lesson. Immediately before the mitzvah of Shmittah, at the end of Parashas Emor, the Torah relates the episode of the megadeif, in which a man blasphemed against Hashem. Initially, Moshe was at loss as to how to react, until Hashem informed him that the punishment for blasphemy is death. That Moshe did not know the law made it seem as though perhaps not every law was taught in all its detail at Har Sinai. Therefore, to disabuse us of this notion, the Torah used the very next opportunity-the mitzvah of Shmittah-to clarify that, indeed, all the halachos were taught in all their detail at Har Sinai. (To understand why the issur of Lo Sekalleil was not given in its entirety, please see Rabbi Samson Rephael Hirsch's commentary at the beginning of Parshas Behar).
An alternative explanation is that the episode of the megadeif and the mitzvah of Shmittah actually share a common theme-the value of "place." We know that Hashem is called "HaMakon"-literally, "The Place." One instance in which we use this designation is when we comfort someone who has, rachmana litzlan, lost a close relative. Our custom is to say "HaMakom Yenacheim Eschem," "The Place should comfort you." Rabbi Yisrael Rutman explains:
"But why do we use the word "HaMakom" - the Omnipresent (literally, "The Place")? It is but one of the many names of Hashem, and not the one normally employed in blessings. Perhaps "HaRachaman," the Merciful One, would be more appropriate?
Hashem is everywhere. However a person who has lost a loved one often feels that he has been abandoned by Hashem; that there is no Hashem where he is. We say to the mourner, therefore, that HaMakom should comfort him: We pray that he be blessed by a renewed awareness of Hashem's presence, even in the grief-stricken place in which he now finds himself - for that place, too, is HaMakom, the place of G-d.
The contemplation of HaMakom during a time of pain, and coming closer to Him, can comfort the mourner with the realization that their loved one's physical death is only a part of the bigger picture. Just as their life was a part of God's plan, so too is their passing from this world to another yet more real world.
At the end of life, every soul returns to its Makom, to its unique place in the world.
In the spiritual reality, nothing is lost: Not the beloved one's purpose, nor their goodness, and nor even their real existence. The soul continues to exist eternally. At the end of life, every soul returns to its Makom, to its unique "place" in the "world." We tell the mourner: If you could see The Place where the deceased now dwells, you'd be comforted."
The downfall of the megadeif was that, as Rashi explains, Beis Din informed him that he had no nachala, not hereditary portion with any of the Twelve Tribes (because his father was an Egyptian). He emerged from Bais Din feeling alone - that he had no place, and thus reacted in the unfortunate manner that he did. His mistake was that, while we all need to feel at home, our conception of home should not be rooted in property or physical space, but instead we should feel that our true place is with Hashem. The laws of Shemittah teach us this profound lesson. By commanding us to leave our own land fallow every seventh year, the Torah reminds us that, in truth, no one has a right to feel completely at home, even in his own property. Our sense of belonging is not tied to our physical dwelling but to our connection with Hashem. Since the places we occupy are in fact nonessential, the one true place that we all share as equals is being with Hashem.
This message is timely as we look forward to reaccepting the Torah on Shavuos. As we stand together and relive our experience at Har Sinai, let us remember that the Place of Hashem is a place for us all.