By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
And the sabbath-produce of the land shall be for food for you, for your servant and for your maid, and for your hired servant and for the settler by your side
On the Shemita year, all are considered equal (in the sense that the produce of the Land is considered ownerless) and all may benefit from this produce to the same extent. Nevertheless, poskim note that it is best – on the side of the “owner” – to place a sign before a field/garden that notifies that the produce is indeed ownerless or “hefker”. On the side of one who is not the “owner” of the field/garden, it is best to ask permission to take the produce if such a sign is not placed. This atmosphere of peace, unity, and “equality” that is inherent on the “Shabbat of the Land”, reminds us of the weekly Shabbat; when we greet the “angels of peace” around the Shabbat table with our families united in harmony and in the light of the Shabbat candles that, according to our Sages, bring peace. Similarly, on the “Shabbat of the Land”, all are “invited” to the “Table of Hashem”; the Holy Land, which yields its holy produce – “kedushat shvi’it” – on this special year.
Not only do the laws of the produce of the Shemita year carry this atmosphere of unity, but also do the conditions for which Biblically mandated Shemita to occur, as well. One of these conditions is for the majority of worldwide Jewry to live in the Land of Israel. This condition highlights the unity of the People of Israel and how even the Jewry living in the Land of Israel is dependent on the ascent of their brethren from the Diaspora to the Land of Israel in order to fulfill Shmita on a Biblical level [in addition to many other mitzvoth of the Land]. Another condition unique to the laws of Shmita and Yovel [in contrast with the previous condition which applies to also other mitzvoth of the Land], is that the twelve tribes of the People be allocated each in their portions of land in the Land of Israel, without being intermingled. This law, which differentiates between the various tribes, seems to come in opposition to the unifying nature of the previous condition. However, the opposite is true. The Torah teaches us that true peace and unity is achieved when we give respect to the various genuine paths within our People. After each tribe shines in its own distinct light, then the unity of these tribes in the one Holy Land is evermore beautiful and honorable before the Holy Presence in this Land. This concept of unity so inherent to the Holy Land during the “Shabbat of the Land” is also evoked in our Mincha prayers on Shabbat: “one People [commentators: specifically] in the Land.”
Hebron is both the Beacon of the Holy Land, the first Jewish settlement in the Holy Land, and therefore naturally evokes the message of unity, the message of “one People in the Land,” with its name Hebron = “hibur” – unity.
Real Stories from the Holy Land #316
Entrance into the Cave of Machpela: “During one night in the month of Elul of 1981, we began saying special prayers of repentance, “slichot,” at midnight in Maarat HaMachpela. The guards, employed by the Waqf, were not overly alert or awake at that time of night. They left their place of work and went to sleep. When we saw this, we brought with us a big chisel to the midnight prayer service. In the middle of the service, we began to sing and dance. During the dancing, some of us made our way to the pray-rugs, lifted them, and revealed a stone. It was held in place by metal bars, attached to surrounding stones. We began hammering on the rock with the chisel, and after a while it began to move. Finally, the stone opened. It is difficult to describe the emotions we felt when we saw the stone move off the small opening under it. We entered, our hearts pounding with excitement. We found stairs that led down into darkness. We descended slowly. The stairs led to a narrow, dark corridor. We walked slowly through the corridor, stooping down, using flashlights to guide our way. We reached the circular room and looked around. It was round and dark. On the wall were three stones, but no cave was visible. Where was the cave? Were all our efforts in vain? Several minutes later an additional mystery presented itself. It seemed to us that we felt a breeze. How could this be? Blowing wind originating from above ground? Looking down at the ground we saw several stones that appeared to be stuck, one to the other. The wind seemed to be originating from between them. Within moments, emotions flying, the stones were uplifted and…. the cave – a cave of rock, leading into the earth. We crawled in a very narrow opening into a circular cave, carved in the stone, deep in the earth. The cave was filled with dust, to its very edge. It was impossible to stand or sit, only to crawl. We continued inside until it widened, and then, a second cave. This cave was smaller than the first, but here awaited us another surprise. It was also filled with dust, but among the dust were bone and remnants of pottery scattered around, some of which were in good condition. Wind blew in the caves, but the sounds of our hearts pounding was audible. No living being had been this close to the Patriarchs in thousands of years. Each one of us spent some time contemplating the significance of being within the Caves of the Patriarchs, and we uttered silent prayers in the presence of our Forefathers. As we investigated, it became clear that the pottery belonged to the First Temple Era, the era of the Judean Kings. The Jews of Hebron, and the Jews of all of Judea, understanding the importance and significance of the Caves of the Machpelah, were directed to bring both the bones and the pottery into the underground caves themselves. After several hours, as dawn approached, we were forced to leave these sacred caverns, so as not to be caught below. We were privileged to reveal the underground Caves of the Machpelah, to pray there, to reveal ancient Jewish pottery from the Era of the Kingdom of Judea within the caves, and, even if only for a few moments, united, as Sons with their Fathers.”
Source (abridged): http://en.hebron.org.il/history/593
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