In this week’s Parsha the Torah details the laws of a person, who as a result of financial difficulties, is forced to sell some of their inheritance. The laws progress gradually from one who sells their land to one who sells a home and eventually to one who sells themself as a slave.
The Ohr Hachayim explains through allegorical and “derash” methodology what he considers “a great and very important observation for the inhabitants of the world”. As I sit down to write this Dvar Torah on the evening following the 66th Yom Ha’atzmaut of the State of Israel, it would be fitting to share his thoughts with you.
The Torah relates the laws of a person who sells his property as follows:
“If your brother becomes destitute and sells some of his inherited property, his redeemer who is related to him shall come forth and redeem his brother’s sale.“
The Ohr Hachayim explains that the “destitution” is that of the Jewish people, that as a result of their poorness of action in Torah and Mitzvot, they “as if” cause Hashem to become weak in benefiting them.
This then results in the “selling” of His inheritance, an allusion to the selling out of the Bet Hamikdash to the nations of the world, its destruction and the banishment of Am Yisrael from their land.
Once this happens, the first preference of redemption is for the person’s redeemer, who is related, “close to” in the language of the Torah, to come and redeem the land. This, says the Ohr Hachayim, is a reference to the Tzadikim and sages in each generation who are “close” to Hashem. The redemption is in their hands as “it is incumbent upon them to awaken and instill in the hearts of the people a yearning to return to their inheritance, their land.”
“And he, the Tzadik, should say to the people: ‘Is it good for you to be sitting outside, exiled from the table of your Father? What pleasure is there in the world besides the closeness to Hashem, and sitting around His table?’ He, the Tzadik, should make it unfavorable in the eyes of the people to have illusionary desires of the mundane, and awaken in them a spiritual and real desire until they improve their ways.”
The Ohr Hachayim then proceeds to make a severe statement/accusation which is best quoted verbatim: ” And for this, all the ‘lords of the land’, the great Rabbis of Israel, will have to account for in judgment, and from them Hashem will demand the insult of his degraded House.”
The Torah continues:
“And if a man does not have a redeemer, but he gains enough means to afford its redemption, he shall calculate the years for which the land has been sold, and return the remainder to the man to whom he sold it, and [then] he may return to his inheritance.”
If the “man”, allegorically referring to Hashem, does not have a redeemer, there is no one “holding the hand of the Jewish People” to bring them back, the “means” are obtained to generate the redemption. Those means are the sufferings and pains of the exile. This will then lead ultimately to the returning of Am Yisrael to Hashem, and reciprocally, the returning of Hashem to us.
However: “But if he cannot afford enough to repay him,” if the “Master” will see that the people can no longer bear the suffering of the exile and its tribulations, then: “his sale shall remain in the possession of the one who has purchased it, until the Jubilee year. And then, in the Jubilee year, it shall go out and revert to his inheritance.“ There is, explains the Ohr Hachayim, a deadline when the sale must revert to its original owner, regardless of whether or not the owner can come up with the means to repurchase his inheritance. The exile will come to an end no matter if the people are worthy of it or not.
The Ohr Hachayim wrote these prophetic words down some three hundred years ago. He himself had the mesirut nefesh to act on them and he came to Eretz Yisrael where he started a Beit Midrash in a Shul which is situated on what is now named Ohr Hachayim Street, round the corner from the Midrasha. Unfortunately and painfully, his foretelling exegesis of the verses seems to have gone the full length.
Despite the fact that there is still much to accomplish, especially noting that the center of our inheritance is still in ruins, how fortunate we are in our generation to be living in an era when the inheritance has returned to its owner and we are all able, to return and “sit around the table of our Father.”
R. Hayyim b”r Moshe ibn Attar was born in Sali, West Morocco in 1696. As a child he studied with his father and grandfather, R. Hayyim ibn Attar the Elder, and upon achieving maturity, continued his studies, eventually teaching and involved himself in public affairs, becoming famous for his acumen and piety. In 1732 he published his first book Hefetz haShem (commentaries to some tractates). Afterwards he wandered from city to city in Morocco and Algeria, finally deciding to immigrate to the Land of Israel. On his way, he passed through Leghorn, Italy, where he prepared for publication his Or HaHayyim on the Pentateuch. In 1741 he arrived in the Land of Israel with a number of his disciples, and after brief stays in Acre and Tiberias, he relocated to Jerusalem where he established a yeshiva for the study of Talmud and Kabala. He vigorously struggled against the Karaites living in Jerusalem at that time. He died in 1743, after having lived in Jerusalem for less than a year. (Bar Ilan Responsa CD)
Ohr Hachayim on the Torah, Vayikra 25;25.
Ohr Hachayim ibid.
Ohr Hachayim ibid.
Ohr Hachayim ibid.