Chazal tell us that Hashem created this world called יש (matter) from אין (nothingness) because nothing existed prior to Hashem. The Chassidic Masters take another spin on this. That in reality, this world that we live in is the אין nothingness compared to the next world where there lies the real יש, substance and reality. This is what the passuk means when it says להנחיל לאוהבי יש I will give to those who love me יש 310 worlds the gematriah of יש. Menachem Mendel from Vitepsk seems to make a synthesis between both of these perspectives. He writes that Hashem made this world from nothingness and gave to man his task and mission to transform and return the יש back into אין.
How is such a mission achieved? The prerequisite to the success of such a purpose is first to possess the correct perspective at Olam Hazeh a world whose nature is of the physical. In the English Language when one wants to show possession he begins his sentence with the words I have … First comes the I, which is then followed by have which means to possess. In Lashon Hakodesh this statement is said in a different form: יש לי there is to me…. The I is absent and so is the verb of possession. In Lashon Hakodesh the אני shares the same letters of אין . One must constantly strive to negate the ego and his I to Hashem and to His will.
In reality, this world is so fleeting and will eventually end. What you cannot take with you in the grave sends the message that one doesn’t “really” own it except for its Halachik ramifications. Therefore, even though it might appear as if you do own something, the true interpretation of this illusional reality is that you don’t “have” it but rather לי it is “to me” for the time that I am living.
Let us take the English word own. Why isn’t the word “one” pronounced the same way as the word own just like we find in the word bone or stone? Why is it pronounced as if it has a letter w before the “ne”? The truth is that the more educated one gets, he realizes that the most significant rule of the English Language is that everything is the exception to the rule. But if I had to give mussar I would say that we must clearly understand that only Hashem who is אחד one, is the only one who does own everything. If you understand this clearly then you already won many battles in life. Even one’s body one does not own to do to it whatever he pleases, to risk your life, tattoo it, cut yourself or make a bald spot between your eyes to show mourning over the dead or to take drugs that can make you unhealthy.
However, what one truly does own and what he can take with him after 120 is his spirituality, his Torah Mitzvos and Middos Tovos which he fulfilled with his body. In this fashion, he changed and sanctified his body which is merely flesh and blood into a reality of the future for it supported the fulfillment of the above. According to many Rishonim, Olam Habah will be experienced with a spiritual body and neshama together, that body which we infused with Torah and Mitzvos. It was in this world that we took the יש of our bodies and transformed it back to אין as Rebbe Menachem Mendel from Vitepsk prescribed.
The Torah in this week’s parsha gives Klal Yisrael an opportunity for a year-long and sometimes, even more, to arrive at the realization that physical things like land property one doesn’t really own fully but rather it belongs to the One the Echad, Hashem. Every seventh year all agricultural activity is prohibited and the land must lie fallow. All produce that is grown naturally is declared hefker and ownerless to all men and animals. In the 50th year which is Yovel the same restrictions apply as Shmittah, plus the Jewish slaves that we employed must be freed, and all sold land must be returned to its original owner. In case one thought that he invested in a land purchase so that he will have the real estate to give over to his children, when Yovel strikes he will realize that real estate is really false estate. The only real estate that you own after your demise is your grave and even that is only up until Techiyas Hamaisim.
The Zohar says that in the passuk להנחיל לאוהבי יש the word יש is the acronym of יובל שמיטה. By observing the laws of Shemittah and Yovel one acquires freedom וקראתם דרור from physical objects and materialism which has become one’s masters instead of one’s servants, contrary to one’s original plan in their usage. Shemittah and Yovel are the wake-up call that one must take a recess from overindulgence in of the corporeal (body, notice the addition of the word real as if the body is a real corporation). וקראתם דרור בארץ by viewing yourself for those years not as the owner, you are freed בארץ from your shackles and attachment to earthliness.
Possessiveness and obsession with the I and “mine“, can be very dangerous. One must realize that everything he owns is only a short loan to you by Hashem. The purpose of these loans is to enable one to make correct moral choices in order to aid you to get closer to Hashem. With this understanding of the loan concept, one’s challenges and tests of life become less frustrating and painful. The feeling that physical objects are mine with an absolute possessiveness instead of a loan from Hashem is dangerous, for it is similar to a mine planted in the ground that can lead to unfortunate explosive results. The craving for amassing wealth can drive one away from being close with his immediate family and relatives for there is no time due to his pressing pursuit. His spiritual levels can drop and his middos can be distorted all the sake of it’s mine. עמלק which is gematriah 240, is the opposite of the hashkafah that everything you own is really יש לי to me because it is a פקדון a deposit which is also 240. It was Haman the descendant of Amalak who said (Esther 5,13) וכל זה איננו שוה לי the fact that everyone bows down to me with the one exception of Mordechai is of no value to me. With Amalek it’s either all or nothing! Amalek feels the entitlement to have it all. If one becomes so obsessed with mine it can cause him to be a miner which means to dig deep into the earth (earthliness) to uncover more resources for greater feelings of power. By being a miner one will remain paralyzed in this state of also being a minor for the rest of his life, never growing up always striving to have, not to give or share.
Undergoing this Covid 19 which forces us to be alone without all of our normal physical activities makes us begin to realize whether it is wealth, investments, entertainment, sports, big and lavish chasunahs, etc. are mamesh here today and gone tomorrow. By being alone in forced seclusion we begin to realize more clearly that all of the above is also only a loan from Hashem. He gives it for a certain time and then takes it back. Let us learn from the first Yid of Am Yisrael, Avraham Avinu (Bereishis 13 12) ואברם כבד מאד במקנה בכסף ובזהב that the passuk describes his departure from Mitzrayim as being “heavy” very much with cattle, silver, and gold. The Baalei Mussar explain that the word כבד is a description of his relationship with his new acquired wealth in that it was for Avraham a burden and extra pressure to have such great wealth and ensure that it wouldn’t play a role of disrupting his household and himself from the service of Hashem. The Seforno says because of his overwhelming possessions it slowed him down from his burning desire to reach the mizbaiach quickly.
כבד denotes a heaviness that causes a slowing down and a compromise in one’s avodas Hashem. Likewise, it can be said about our lockdown because of the virus that has plagued us. Up until now, we had the wealth and all of the distractions and the perks that come with it as we mentioned above. Unknowingly, it has taken its toll and has slowed many of us down from the mizbaiach of avodas Hashem. The Master of the Universe decided to bring us another type of כבד which also slowed us down from our normal daily pursuits by removing all the extra nonsense that distracted us in the past from our real purpose of sacrifice to Hashem on the mizbaiach.
Shemittah and Yovel give us an acute recognition of the real life and not “real” estate, of true ownership and not the mines that are waiting for our footsteps to step on. There is no entitlement for anything since everything we have must be framed through the lens of matanah and pikadon. The present situation should retroactively make us understand like Avraham Avinu that the previous lifestyle before Mabbul of Corona was a nonsensical constant pressure to keep up with technological advancement which slowly but surely hijacked many of us from the mission of Am Yisrael. We must glean from the present pulling the rug from under our feet that we must be committed and devoted not to return to our old investment of energies to waste on things and projects that are אין when we start and remain an even bigger אין after we finish. This will hasten the coming of Moshiach who will bring to us the ultimate Yovel of freedom from earthliness and fulfill our yearning for greater intimacy with Hashem.