Behar 5779

May 21, 2019

Put your money where your mouth is!

I was watching closely as two of my students raged in a debate. It looked as if it was starting to get personal and eventually one of them yelled out ‘put your money where your mouth is!”.

Interesting I thought, what’s he going to do now?

My mind raced ahead, imagining the student taking out a few pound notes and putting towards his lips.

How weird I thought. Was this another statement yelled out in debate without real meaning?

Realising I was watching on, clueless at this statement, the student turned towards me to explain his words.

Rabbi, when we say put your money where your mouth is, we are saying: “if you really believe in your words then put some money on the table and let’s take a bet over this. You believe your right so place £10 on the table. If I am proven right, I get the money, otherwise you get it back!”

 

Wow, I thought that’s a great way to earn money! Of course I explained that we do not support betting in any format, and then I suggested to him a deeper explanation to this phrase.

Let me explain, I said.

 

Yossi was the friendliest guy in town, loved by all around. He courted a smiley face and always had words of encouragement. He was pious and G-d fearing.

Friends new whenever they had a problem, they could discuss it with Yossi, and after a few minutes, they would come out believing all was for the best. “Don’t Worry, Hashem loves you, He will take care of the situation. Have faith!” he would state.

Yossi was also the proud owner of the one and only Kosher Superstore in the town. Everyone bought there and profits were booming.

One day as Yossi walked through town, he was stunned. On one of the old stores there were blackened windows and a big sign: “New Super Kosher Market Opening here in two weeks!”

How dare they! He thought. What a cheek. He was the only kosher supermarket in town.

Now how would you react if you were Yossi?

Find out who the owner was, give him a call and discourage him? Speak to the Bet Din? Bad mouth the competition?

It’s all very well to have faith and belief in Hashem….when we are not tested. It’s great to constantly say we believe in Hashem and tell others all is in Hashem’s hands and will be for the best, but what happens when there is a shock to the system and we are really tested ourselves? How do we react?

Our Sages tell us that “No one hurts his finger in this world if such was not ordained from above” (Chulin 7b) and “No one can touch anything that was intended for someone else” (Yuma 38b.) everything is under G-ds control.

The Chazon Ish explains that there is a difference between Emuna and Bitachon.

The former represents the belief in Hashem and Hashgacha Pratit – divine providence. Bitachon requires that we act in accordance with our Emuna.

We have Emuna (we believe) that whatever will happen to me is the will of Hashem. Whether I survive or not is up to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and I cannot possibly suffer if this is not the wish of Hashem.

 

Everyone believes in Hashem.

Scientists are so dumbfounded about cells, that to date there is no real estimate of how many cells there are in the human body. One thing they all agree on is that there are trillions of atoms in a cell, and trillions of cells in the human body! Our body is a miracle!

Every day we are living that miracle.

Just take one human organ – the eye and look how it is a marvel of built-in engineering, combining reflected light, lens imaging capability, multiple lighting adjustments and information processing – all in the space of your eyeball. When working properly, the human eye converts light into impulses that are conveyed to the brain and interpreted as images. Experts estimate humans can distinguish roughly 10 million different colours!

Water is the life source of the planet. Over 70% of our Earth’s surface is covered by water. Although water is seemingly abundant, the real issue is the amount of fresh water available. Roughly 97.5% of all water on Earth is salt water, leaving only 2.5% as fresh water.  Nearly 70% of that fresh water is frozen in the icecaps of Antarctica and Greenland; most of the remainder is present as soil moisture, or lies in deep underground aquifers as groundwater not accessible to human use.

Less than 1% of the world’s fresh water is accessible for direct human uses. This is the water found in lakes, rivers, reservoirs. Only this amount is regularly renewed by rain and snowfall, and is therefore available on a sustainable basis. Do we appreciate it? Do we realise what a miracle we are living in?

We believe in G-d! But how far does that belief translate into action?

 

This weeks Parsha, begins with the Mitzvah of Shemita. “Shesh Shanim Tizrah Sadecha”- six years you will plant your field… and on the seventh year, a sabbatical will be for the land, a sabbatical for Hashem (25:3-4).

The Kli Yakar brings numerous opinions explaining the reason of this mitzvah. Many explain that it allows the earth to rebuild itself in terms of its ability to provide the necessary nutrition for proper growth. However, he asks, if this mitzvah is simply an ecological consideration, why would the punishment for lack of observance be exile (see Behalotecha)?! Surely it should be the natural consequence of his actions- a depleted field producing a poor harvest? Furthermore, how could this year be termed a “Shabbat laHashem”- a sabbatical for Hashem- is it not a sabbatical for the earth?!

The Kli Yakar explains that the fundamental purpose for the Mitzvah of Shemita is to instil in the Jewish people a deep and profound belief – Emuna AND Bitachon in G-d.

Upon leaving Egypt the Bnei Yisrael were sustained miraculously via the Manna for 40 years. When you are sustained miraculously it’s easy to believe in G-d.

But upon entering the land of Israel, all would change. There they would farm the land, and depend on ‘nature’.  In this there lay a danger that the farmer’s belief in G-d as provider would be diminished. He would focus his belief on his hard earned efforts and nature.

Thus Hashem commanded us with the Mitsva of Shemita – this would act as a constant reminder that the success of the land is indeed dependant solely on G-d and to recreate the feeling that we had in the desert that even if we leave the land alone completely, (if this is what Hashem wants), it will produce on the same level and even more that it did when we worked it.

This was the farmer’s way of showing his Emuna AND Bitachon. He leaves himself completely at the mercy of Hashem realising everything emanates from the Almighty.

The world and society we grew up in provides us constantly with tests to our Emuna and Bitachon.

The person with Bitachon not only believes Hashem is running the world, but acts in conformance with that belief.

So, I turned to the student and finished saying, “do you put your money where your mouth is?”