For the Sake of the Mitzvah
By Rabbi Yonah Burr
וידבר ד' אל משה בהר סיני לאמר
And Hashem spoke to Moshe, at Har Sinai, saying
The Torah introduces the Mitzva of Shmitta with the statement that this Mitzva was given at Har Sinai. This prompts the famous question, what does Shmitta specifically have to do with Har Sinai?
Chazal explain that Shmitta is being held up as an example. Just as Shmitta was given at Sinai with all its details, so too, the entire Torah was given at Sinai with all it details.
But this still begs the question, why was Shmitta of all mitzvos chosen to be the example? What is unique about shmitta that this is the paradigm mitzva given at Sinai? The question remains - what does shmitta have to do with Har Sinai?
The Rambam in Hilchos Melachim 5:11 teaches us, that our obligation to perform the mitzvos is only because of the revelation at Sinai. Even if theoretically a mitzva would have been given earlier in history, it is only binding by virtue of the fact that it was taught to Moshe at Har Sinai.
Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l explains, that any command given earlier, before the revelation of Sinai was more of a ‘suggestion’. The rational was explained and the people fulfilled it because it made ‘sense’ to do so. Adam, Noach, Shem and Aver, all kept the mitzvos that they were aware of because they understood that they were the right thing to do. However, as we all know, human beings have a way of rationalizing and compartmentalizing what we know. We can easily be led astray and behave contrary to what we know is right. That explains why the many people brought close by Avrohom didn’t last. They followed along because they were convinced it was right, but that conviction doesn’t last.
Har Sinai was different. The Mitzvos were given as rules of Hashem, whether we understood them or not. We are not to follow them because we understand or agree, but as servants of Hashem. The true reason may even be beyond our comprehension, but we follow anyway. This type of following is non-negotiable and has a better chance of lasting.
The power to serve Hashem with that level of conviction was actually granted to us at Har Sinai. When we declared 'נעשה ונשמע' we were given that ability to trust and follow without question.
The Mitzva of shmitta is one that highlights this idea well. How does a farmer find it within himself to abandon his field for a year- not working it, not developing it, and even allowing strangers to trample it and take whatever is there? It is the fact that only Hashem Who created the world commanded us to do so. He commanded us and He will enable us to follow. He will give us the bracha we need to fulfill His will, and in Hashem we trust.
Just as this incredible lesson is inherent in the mitzva of Shmitta, so too, all the mitzvos were given at Har Sinai -- the same ability to listen, the same ability to trust and the promise that we will succeed is there.
We are certainly going through trying times. Sorrow, loss, anxiety, and the complete upheaval of our everyday life.
May we continue to daven that Hashem grant comfort to those of us who suffered loss, health to those who are ill, and the ability to withstand this test and accomplish whatever it is that Hashem expects of us.
May we see the final redemption speedily in our days.