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Friday, August 14

The Weekly Shtikle - Re'eih

As I have done previously for my mother, Zadie, and Bubbie, a"h, I will be dedicating this entire year of shtikles to my Opa, Tuvia Yehudah ben Yoel, a"h.

In this week's parsha a word not used any where else in the Torah (although it is found 20 times in NA"CH) appears twice. The inhabitants of the "ir hanidachas," the city that has been led astray, are referred to (13:14) as "b'nei beliya'al." Later, when discussing the requirement to reach out to the needy and lend them money, we are warned (15:9) lest there be an inclination of "beliya'al" in our hearts not to lend to the needy since the Shemitah year is approaching. This unique word is used to describe idolaters as well as those who refuse to lend money as Shemitah approaches. Surely, there is a connection.

I have purposely left "beliya'al" untranslated. It is difficult to attach an exact meaning to the word and we must therefore turn to the commentaries for the etymology of the word. Rashi writes that it is a contraction of "beli ol," without a yoke. It refers to someone who has thrown off the yoke of the service of HaShem. Clearly, one may only throw off a yoke if it was once upon him. Perhaps we may explain in the second case that it is referring to one who has thrown off the yoke of communal responsibility. The Torah is talking of someone who might very well appear to appreciate the importance of charity. But when push comes to shove and his loan is in danger of having to be forgiven, he is unwilling to his duty to society. He bears the yoke when it suits him, but is quick to unload it when it does not.

Another insightful rendering of the word is given by Rav Hirsch. He explains that it is a contraction of "bli al," without one above, someone who acts as if there is no one above him. This may also be applied to the apprehensive lender. The Shemitah year is one of the primary tests of faith. A farmer is required to put all his faith and belief in HaShem that despite the land being unworked for a full year, he will still pull through. The lender has to have a little faith as well. Someone who fears that the Shemitah will interfere with his financial dealings fails to see HaShem's Hand and considers himself a master of his own destiny. It is this behaviour specifically that is labelled as "beliya'al."

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

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