Minimize The Nisayon Wherever Possible
These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi
Yissocher Frand's Weekly Portion Torah CDs/Tapes: # 768, Dos & Don'ts
Of Treating A Lender. Good Shabbos!
In Parshas Behar, the Torah says, "V'Haretz lo timacher l'tzmisus ki li kol
ha'aretz..." "You shall not sell the land in perpetuity, for to Me belongs
the entire land for you are sojourners and residents with Me." [Vayikra
25:23]. Parshas Behar not only discusses the laws of Shmita [the Sabbatical
year], it discusses the laws of the Yovel [Jubilee] year as well. Today, we
have lost track of the calculation of when the Yovel year should fall out.
Yovel is not in effect nowadays inasmuch as it only applies when "all of its
inhabitants are upon the Land". With G-d's Help, there will be an
ingathering of the exiles, the Beis HaMikdash will be rebuilt, and in the
future, we will once again observe the Yovel laws taught in our parsha.
What are the Yovel laws? When Klal Yisrael came into Eretz Yisrael, each
tribe and each family within a tribe received a unique piece of Land as
their personal inheritance. This piece of land was given to an individual
and his descendants in perpetuity. Consequently, if a person "sold" his
land, it was not a permanent sale but rather a lease for as many years as
were left until the Yovel year arrived. When the 50th year arrived, everyone
(or their heirs, if they were no longer living) would receive back their
There are actually two possible readings of the pasuk cited earlier:
"V'Haretz lo timacher l'tzmisus ki li kol ha'aretz" This could be
interpreted merely as a statement of fact or narrative: "With this system of
Yovel in place the land will never be sold forever." However, this is not
how the classical Torah commentaries interpret the pasuk. The pasuk is
classically interpreted as a negative prohibition. While there is general
agreement that the pasuk is a negative prohibition (a "lav"), there is a
dispute between Rashi and the Ramban in terms of to whom the prohibition is
Rashi interprets the prohibition as being directed at the buyer of the
field. He must return it upon the arrival of the Yovel year and may not
withhold it from the original owner. The Ramban disagrees and points out
that the Torah formulates the prohibition in terms of not SELLING the land
in perpetuity. This sounds as if the prohibition is directed at the seller,
not at the buyer.
According to the Ramban, a person who sells land and promises the buyer that
despite the laws of yovel "this sale is forever" is the one who violates
this negative prohibition. Even though the court will anyway enforce the
land going back in the Yovel year, the seller is already in violation at the
time of the sale by virtue of claiming that it would be a permanent sale.
The Ramban admits that this is a "lav sh'ayn bo ma'aseh". Since the seller
violates it merely by speech rather than through action, it is considered a
"passive prohibition" for which the violator does not receive lashes. It is
a sin nevertheless.
The Ramban gives an interesting reason for this prohibition. Anyone who has
ever sold a house that he has lived in for a long time knows that it is a
very hard thing to do. A house has sentimental value. There are associated
memories and attachments. When a person sells a piece of property, say in
the fifth year of the Yovel cycle, the buyer will be living there for 45
years. He may get married in the house, raise his family there, and have
children and grandchildren there. People become attached. They love their
houses. After 45 years, it is very hard to walk away and say "Right. It is
your house, not mine." Therefore, the Torah makes it as easy as possible for
the buyer to leave the land at the proper time. How does the Torah do this?
The seller must remind the buyer on day one that the land that he is moving
into is not his own. The seller may not indicate that the sale is permanent
but rather must remind the buyer at the very outset that the deal is a
lease, not a sale.
People do not become psychologically attached to property that they are
merely leasing. Do people become attached to motel rooms? The Torah wants to
make the nisayon [trial or test] of observing the Yovel laws as painless as
possible. Therefore, the Torah sets up a prohibition against the seller ever
giving the buyer the impression that would allow him to become
psychologically attached to his "leased" land, such that he might have too
difficult a time returning it when the Yovel year arrived.
In Parshas Vayetzei, Rav Simcha Zissel writes that this is one of the great
principles taught by Rav Yisrael Salanter. Life is full of tests. Many
times, Mitzvos can be hard to fulfill. Aveiros [sins] are sometimes hard to
avoid. A person should make Torah observance as easy as possible for
himself. He should not try to take on the Yetzer Hara frontally but should
rather avoid temptation or scenarios that will magnify the difficulty of
keeping Torah law.
Just as a person on a diet should not frequent a bakery and just assume that
he will have the will-power to ignore the aroma of the pastries that may
undermine his diet plan, so too a person should not assume he will be able
to withstand the evil inclination when tempted to violate Torah law. A
person should always seek a path of living that avoids the temptation in the
first place, rather than one which confidently challenges the Yetzer Harah
and then too often succumbs to it.
The Baalei Mussar prove this idea with a thought relating to the story in
Bereshis where Yaakov has to take leave of his father-in-law, Lavan.
Yaakov had been with Lavan for 20 years. The Almighty came to Yaakov one
night and told him "Reb Yaakov, it is time to leave. Pack up your bags, pack
up your kids, everybody has to leave." Yaakov went to his wives the next
morning to inform them of this latest development.
Now, if G-d would come to me at night under those circumstances, what would
I tell my wife the next morning? "Honey we need to leave. Why do we have to
leave? Don't ask any questions, the Almighty says we have to leave so we are
However, what does Yaakov say? He begins with a soliloquy. "It has been
terrible here. Your father has cheated me left and right..." Yaakov gives
them a whole speech about why it is difficult there and why they should not
be there, and so on and so forth. Then, almost as an afterthought, Yaakov
adds, "And you know what, the Almighty told me to leave." What is Yaakov
talking about? What is with the speeches? G-d said to leave. Pack your bags
and move out, what is there to talk about?
The answer is that Yaakov Avinu knows that it is hard for any daughter to
leave her father's house. It is going to be a challenge and it is going to
be difficult. The name of the game in facing challenging tests is to
minimize the challenge. Keep the nisayon as limited as possible.
Yaakov first gave his wives the psychological motivation to want to leave
their father's home. He made it into a "no brainer" for them. Then he threw
in "And by the way this is what Hashem wants of us as well."
This idea of minimizing the nisayon is exactly what this Ramban in Parshas
Behar is saying regarding the Yovel law. When the seller sells the land to
the buyer, the Torah writes a Biblical prohibition, "The land shall not be
sold permanently." Make it easier on yourself and make it easier on the
buyer. Tell him up front, "This is not a sale. Do not get your hopes up, do
not be misled." If a person knows at the beginning that it is a lease then
when the time comes to leave, he is not leaving "my home, my house." He is
leaving the place where he happened to have lived, but it has not been his
own at any time.
Mitzvos can be difficult enough to keep without extra nisyonos. Let us try
to minimize the nisayon of proper observance.
This write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher
Frand's Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah Portion. The
halachic topics covered for the current week's portion in this series are:
Tape # 011 Rationing Medical Care
Tape # 012 - Can Teachers Strike?
Tape # 054 - Life Insurance: The Torah Policy
Tape # 055 - Candle Lighting & Havdalah: How Early & How Late?
Tape # 097 - "Ribis" Problems of Interest for the Jew in a
Tape # 098 - "Cheremei Tzibur": A Ban on Living in Germany?
Tape # 145 - Kidney Donations: Endangering Oneself to Save Another
Tape # 192 - Making Shabbos Early
Tape # 282 - The Physician's Obligation to Heal
Tape # 328 - Sh'mita and the Heter Mechira
Tape # 372 - Using Shuls As A Shortcut
Tape # 416 - Supporting Jewish Merchants
Tape # 460 - The Obligation of Checking One's Teffilin
Tape # 504 - Lag B'Omer
Tape # 548 Marrying for Money
Tape # 592 Ribis and the Non-Jew
Tape # 636 The Kedusha of the Ezras Noshim
Tape # 680 - Is Ribis Ever Permitted?
Tape # 724 The Chazzan Who Changes His Mind
Tape # 768 Dos and Don'ts of Treating a Lender
Tape # 812 How Much Is That Tiffany Necklace?
Tape # 856 Distractions When Performing A Mitzvah
Tape # 900 Oy! My Tefillin Are Pasul
Tape # 945 Overcharing: How Much Is Too Much?
Tape # 987 Limud HaTorah Must You Understand What You Are Learning?
Tape # 988 Bentching Making Sure You Eat and Enjoy
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