“Parsha and Purpose” – Behar-Bechukotai 5780
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha
“Planting Seeds: Changing Ourselves and the World”
Planting Seeds: Changing Ourselves and the World
This week, we’re introduced to this unbelievable, fascinating halacha about the sabbatical year. And there is a fascinating law that shares with us a difference in mindsets, a difference between Shabbat and the sabbatical year.
On Shabbat, if I take a seed and I plant it, and an hour later I remove the seed from the ground, I’ve still violated the prohibition of doing a creative action on Shabbat, even though the seed has not yet taken root.
With a sabbatical year, if I plant a seed, something that is prohibited during the sabbatical year, and a day later, before it takes root I remove the seed, I have not violated the sabbatical year.
Why is there this difference between Shabbat and the sabbatical year?
Let me suggest an answer that was written in the mid-1800s by Rav Avraham Borenstein of Sochaczew, the Sochatchover Rebbe, in his Eglei Tal. He explains that on Shabbat, what counts is my melechet machshevet – my creative thought process. Tosafot on Moed Katan 13a:4:1
The fact that I have a picture in my mind that I want to plant a seed is sufficient to have violated the prohibition of not doing creative labor.
On the sabbatical year, what counts is my influence over the world, and therefore it’s not enough to plant the seed. The seed needs to take root.
What a wonderful message for us! The idea that we have to live in both paradigms.
The Shabbat paradigm, the melechet machshevet. We have to be creative – and often our creative thoughts are really critical and really important in developing ourselves. When we have a commitment to our own self-development, that commitment to that self-development that takes root in our mind is sufficient to be transformational.
But when we engage in the outside world, it’s not enough to have a mindset. It’s not enough for a seed to be planted in our mind, or for a seed to be planted. The action has to take root. It’s not enough to think about helping my neighbor. I actually have to do something.
We live on these two levels. We live in these two dimensions. The responsibility of celebrating the message of Shabbat every single day. Of having creative actions, creative mindsets, of making sure we improve ourselves, that new ideas take root in our mind.
And our responsibility to engage in the world, the sabbatical paradigm. To make sure that our actions really celebrate our commitment to changing the world, and the responsibility to do that.
Shabbat Shalom, and may we always celebrate the Shabbat and the sabbatical paradigms in our life.-1