Vol 17.33 - Behar 1                       Spanish French Audio  Video

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(5737) Rashi (Lev. 25:1, beg. of parsha): "On Mount Sinai": What has the matter of the Sabbatical year etc So is it taught in Toras Kohanim. And it seems to me that such is its explanation etc" The innovation in the explanation of Torat Kohanim according to Rashi's commentary. Debate of R'Akiva and R' Yishmael - if the general rules and its details were all said at Sinai or if the general rules were said at Sinai and the details in the Ohel Moed - according to Pnimiyut



The Torah portion of Behar begins by saying:1 “G‑d spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai….” It then details the laws of Shemitah , the Sabbatical year. Rashi , quoting Toras Kohanim asks:2 “What particularly has Shemitah to do with Mount Sinai; all the commandments were given on Sinai.!” He answers: “Just as the general, specific, and most minutely detailed laws of Shemitah were related at Sinai, so too, all the mitzvos were related, generally, specifically and most minutely at Sinai.”

This comment is in accord with the opinion of Rabbi Akiva that “The general as well as the specific laws were given at Sinai”3 ; it negates the opinion of Rabbi Yishmael, who maintains that only “the general principles were given at Sinai,” and “the specific laws were related in the Tabernacle.”4

Why do Rabbis Akiva and Yishmael disagree; what lies at the root of their argument?

R. Yishmael, who was a High Priest, served G‑d in the priestly manner of “holy of holies”5 — the service of the completely righteous tzaddikim, while R. Akiva, who descended from proselytes, served in the manner of penitents.6

This explains why R. Akiva said concerning the self-sacrificial manner of service known as mesirus nefesh ,7 “All my days I agonized…. when will the opportunity for actual mesirus nefesh present itself so that I will be able to perform it?”

The service of tzaddikim is such that the feeling of mesirus nefesh is required only at the beginning of the day, at the time of the recital of the Shema ; during the rest of the day they go about their service of Torah and mitzvos with but a remnant of that emotion.

However, he whose service is in the manner of repentance — a manner of spiritual service that transcends all limitations — will find himself in the state of mesirus nefesh “all his days ,” i.e., the whole day through.

It was this difference in approach to spiritual service that caused R. Yishmael to disagree regarding whether the specific laws were given on Sinai or in the Tabernacle:

The difference between Sinai and the Tabernacle was that the Tabernacle was constructed in a most orderly fashion, with separations between its various parts, with a progression from courtyard to Sanctuary, and within the Sanctuary itself, from the holy to the Holy of Holies. As such, it symbolized orderly and progressive spiritual service.

Sinai, however, was in the desert. It was not a place of order and settlement. It was thus representative of spiritual service that transcends order — transcendent mesirus nefesh.

Herein lies the basis of their disagreement: For the service of tzaddikim — R. Yishmael — it suffices that the general principles were given at Sinai. I.e., when we speak of mitzvos in their general state (i.e. the underlying foundation of all mitzvos) we presuppose the state of Sinai — mesirus nefesh. However, when we speak of their detailed and specific fulfillment, the orderly manner of service symbolized by the Sanctuary is required.

R. Akiva, however — displaying the service of penitence that transcends orderly progression — maintains that it is possible as well as necessary to experience mesirus nefesh — Sinai — even as one goes about performing the specific details of mitzvos , and indeed during all of one’s activities.

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XVII pp. 276-284.

1.    Vayikra 25:1.
2.    Ibid.
3.    Chagigah 6a; Sotah 37b; Zevachim 115b.
4.    Ibid.
5.    I Divrei HaYomim 23:13.
6.    See Likkutei Sichos, VI p. 123ff; XI p. 107.
7.    Berachos 61b.




"What has the matter of the Sabbatical year to do with Mount Sinai? Were not all the mitzvos said at Sinai? Rather, this comes to teach that just as shemittoh its general rules, details, and specifications were said at Sinai, so too all of them (the mitzvos) including their general rules and specifications. were said at Sinai, So is it taught in Toras Kohanim. And it seems to me that such is its explanation: Since we do not find that land shemittoh was repeated at the Plains of Moab in Sefer Devorim, we have learned that its general rules and its details - all of them - were said at Sinai. And the verse comes to teach us here that every utterance which was prophetically said to Moshe, that all of them were from Sinai - their general rules and their specifications - and they were repeated at the Plains of Moab."  


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