SALT - Thursday, 18 Iyar 5778 - May 3, 2018

  • Rav David Silverberg
This week's SALT shiurim are dedicated in memory of
David Moshe ben Harav Yehuda Leib Silverberg z"l,
whose yahrzeit is Thursday 18 Iyar, May 3
            The Torah commands in Parashat Behar that agricultural lands be returned to their original owners on the yovel (jubilee year), and not sold permanently, explaining, “for the earth is Mine; for you are but strangers and residents with Me” (25:23).  As the land belongs to God, who invites us to develop and cultivate it for our sustenance, He limits the extent of the control that land owners may exert over their property, including limits on the sale of agricultural territory.
            Rav Moshe Chaim Efrayim of Sudlikov (grandson of the Ba’al Shem Tov), in his Degel Machaneh Efrayim, finds in this verse an allusion to the complex relationship we are to have with the physical dimension of our lives.  He writes that we are to see ourselves, at least to some extent, as “strangers” with respect to the “earth” – our areas of physical engagement.  And if we do perceive ourselves in this way, then we are “with Me” – closely bonded to the Almighty, who, while of course intimately involved in every minute detail of the physical earth, is very much a “stranger” to anything physical, as He is an entirely nonphysical Being.  In order for us to create a close connection to God, we must resemble His quality of distance and separateness from physical existence.
            This Chassidic insight instructs that while we quite obviously are expected to tend to our physical needs and satisfy our physical drives, we should not experience complete fulfillment and gratification in these mundane activities.  We are to sense a degree of “strangeness,” of discomfort and unease, in tending to our physical needs, recognizing that they do not represent the ultimate goal and purpose of our existence.  Even as we enjoy the physical comforts and delights that the world offers, we must always be mindful of the higher purpose for which we were created, and recognize that true fulfillment and self-actualization should be experienced only in the devoted service of God, in the spiritual endeavors that we are to pursue over the course of our lives.