Shemittah, Yovel and Sefirah

V’shavsah ha’aretz Shabbos l’Hashem (Vayikra 25:2)

Parashas Behar is always read during the seven-week period known as Sefiras HaOmer. There is a mystical teaching that if a Torah portion is read during a specific calendrical interval, it is an indication that there is a link between the two. What is the deeper connection between Parashas Behar and Sefiras HaOmer?

Harav Yaakov Moshe Katz of Yeshivas Mir points out that Parashas Behar begins with the mitzvos of Shemittah and Yovel, in which we are commanded to count six years and observe the seventh year as the Shemittah year, and to count seven sets of seven-year Shemittah cycles and designate the following year — year 50 — as the Yovel (Jubilee) year. On a basic level, this is the same pattern that we find in Sefiras HaOmer, in which we count the seven days of each week and repeat this process for seven weeks, at which point we celebrate the 50th day as Shavuos. In this sense, Sefiras HaOmer is in days what Shemittah and Yovel are in years. However, this observation begs the question: What is the deeper connection between Sefiras HaOmer and Shemittah and Yovel?

The Ramban explains that each week, we work for six days and then rest on the seventh day, which is Shabbos. This weekly pattern corresponds to Hashem’s master plan for the universe, which Chazal teach was designed to last for 7,000 years, the final 1,000 of which are years of Olam Haba. On Shabbos we set aside our earthly and mundane pursuits and focus solely on connecting to Hashem, and in this sense, it is described as a taste of Olam Haba and corresponds to the final 1,000 years of the universe.

This model is paralleled by the Shemittah cycle, in which we work for six years and rest in the seventh. The Ramban points out that the Torah therefore refers to the Shemittah year as “Shabbos,” as what Shabbos is in days, Shemittah is in years. Just as we take a break after six days of worldly activity to reconnect ourselves to Hashem, so, too, after six years of being caught up in our busy lives, we must take a full year off to learn Torah and remind ourselves of our true priorities in life.

The Ramban continues and explains that the Yovel year represents an even higher spiritual level, as after Olam Haba comes an even more ethereal stage, in which we will be completely bound to Hashem and will experience exquisite and indescribable pleasure. The 50 years in the Yovel cycle correspond to the 50 gates of wisdom and holiness which bring a person to the pinnacle of closeness to Hashem.

Based on this insight from the Ramban into the deeper significance of Shemittah and Yovel, Rav Katz explains that we can now appreciate the link between Parashas Behar, which contains these mitzvos, and Sefiras HaOmer, which also serves to remind us to focus on the future that awaits us. The Arizal points out that the numerical value of the word Omer is 310, which is the same as the word yesh. The word yesh represents the concept of future reward, as the final Mishnah in Shas (Uktzin 3:12) derives from the verse (Mishlei 8:21) “l’hanchil ohavai yesh,” that every righteous person will inherit 310 worlds — the numerical value of yesh — as a reward for his Torah study and mitzvos.

Sefiras HaOmer is a seven-week period in which we eagerly and enthusiastically count each day toward the giving of the Torah on Shavuos, and through our yearning for an increased and deeper connection to Torah, we merit the yesh — 310 future worlds. The mystics point out that the word yesh is also an acronym for YovelShemittah — which helps us earn the 310 worlds by reorienting our lives and making Torah study paramount. Similarly, the first two letters in the word Yisrael are yesh, which alludes to where we are headed and what the purpose of our existence is all about.

May Hashem help us all tap into the tremendous spiritual potential of Sefiras HaOmer and learn the lesson of Shemittah and Yovel. In that merit, our hearts should be open to understand and accept the Torah, and we should warrant the 50 gates of wisdom and the 310 worlds that await us as a reward for our Torah study and mitzvah performance in this world.

Q:The Torah specifies (27:3–7) the various values of males and females from one month to five years of age, from five to 20 years, from 20 to 60 years, and more than 60 years. How is it possible that a healthy Jewish adult has no value?

A: The Rambam writes that if a Jewish court rules that a person should be put to death due to a sin that he committed, even though he is still alive and healthy, he is legally considered as if he is already dead, and a dead man has no value. Therefore, if prior to his execution, he or another person pledges to give his value to the Beis Hamikdash, they are not required to give anything.


 

Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email oalport@Hamodia.com.