While much of our parsha deals with the laws of Yovel and Shemittah, it closes with warnings against ribbis, (interest) ona’ah (monetary deception), and gezel (thievery). In an astounding lesson, the Mei HaShiloach explains the connection between the messages of Yovel and Shemittah and these financial prohibitions in his inimitable, wondrous manner.

In Pirkei Avos, Chazal teach that a person whose interpersonal relationships are founded upon the dual notion of “Sheli shelach v’shelcha shelach”, “What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is yours” is of pious character. The holy Ishbitzer teaches that, on a deeper level, this statement is applicable in a Jew’s relationship with the Master of the world and that Shemittah and Yovel represent its two clauses, respectively.

The facts of our lives seem to suggest that man owns his possessions and may choose to do whatever he wants with them. It seems as though it is up to a landowner whether to plow his field and prepare it for growing crops, whether to leave it fallow, or whether to develop the land and build houses or buildings. The message of Shemitah, which requires the Jewish landowner to rest his field every seventh year, is that “Sheli shelach” – even that which, as my property, appears to be exclusively subject to my own decision making is truly Yours and bound to Your unfathomable Will.

Yovel is even deeper. There are things in life which, when analyzed, are understood as being ultimately and essentially beyond our control such as human destiny, one’s position in society, financial status etc. However, under the illusion of independence from Hashem’s silent sovereignty, we attempt to manipulate and alter our destiny, position in society, and financial status. This is most clearly embodied in the actions of one who sells himself as a slave and the one who purchases him. These individuals are attempting to change their inherent position in Hashem’s Master Plan; the servant by deliberately lowering his status through subjugation and the master by attempting to raise himself in lording over others. Thus, the reversion of this arrangement each Yovel, when all slaves are freed, embodies the understanding that “Shelcha shelach”; Hashem’s plan regarding the realities of life which were never truly under our control will ultimately come to pass regardless of our attempts at subversion.

The Ishbitzer explains that this is the reason warnings against gezel, ribbis, and ona’ah are issued in our parsha. After the Torah has taught us the lessons of Shemittah and Yovel, of “Sheli shelach” and “Shelcha shelach”, it should be easier for one to come to the understanding that attempting to alter our financial status by going against Hashem’s Torah in stealing, collecting interest, and deceiving is a grossly futile endeavor. Ultimately, we are going to have exactly what Hashem has set aside for us – not a penny more, and not a penny less. Therefore, Shemittah and Yovel may be seen as the foundation upon which warnings against these foolish attempts at manipulation are built. 

“Sheli shelach”, a Jew’s fragile control over the things he owns is truly nullified to Hashem’s will – this is the message of shemitta. “V’shelcha shelach”, the underlying currents of my existence, which I never truly had control over despite my attempts at manipulation, will ultimately follow Your direction – this is the message of Yovel.

Rebbe Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Ishbitz
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R’ Yaakov Klein is the founder of the Lost Princess Initiative, an author, musician, and lecturer devoted to sharing the inner light of Torah through his books, music, and lectures.

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