Sunday, January 22, 2006

DAILY MITZVAH (Maimonides): Monday, January 23, 2006


Tevet 23, 5766 * January 23, 2006

D A I L Y M I T Z V A H (M A I M O N I D E S )

Today's Mitzvot (Day 143 of 339):

Positive Mitzvot 82, 135; Negative Mitzvot 220, 221, 222

Positive Mitzvah 82: Breaking the Neck of an Unredeemed First-born

-Exodus 34:20 "And if you do not redeem it, you shall break its neck"

The owner of a first-born donkey, who does not redeem it, prevents
the priest from receiving his due.

He cannot benefit from this animal and is commanded to kill it by
breaking its neck.


Introduction to Mitzvot 134 - 135:

Shemitah - The Sabbatical Year Avi's family lives in Jerusalem.

Avi likes the city with its busy streets and constant activity.
There is always something going on.

However, sometimes, Avi thinks about his cousins who live on
a kibbutz in the north and wonders what it is like to live there.

One summer, Avi's parents decided to send him to stay with his
cousins for a month.

He was so excited he could talk of nothing else for weeks.

Finally, Avi arrived at the kibbutz. The countryside was so different
from the city. The beautiful green meadows and yellow fields were
nicer than any park back home. Avi loved the kibbutz. But most of
all, he liked to accompany his uncle on his tractor.

Every day, his aunt would make fresh salads and steam vegetables that
came straight from the fields. His uncle even let him pick the fruits
and vegetables himself. Avi was amazed at the large amount of fresh
produce that grew in the fields.

"Uncle Abe," he once said, as they were riding on the tractor, "it
is as if the land is a natural factory, producing such a large harvest
over and over again every year."

His uncle smiled. "You are right, Avi. Sometimes, we're so used
to it, we take it for granted and expect the earth to supply us
constantly, with everything that we need. But, you know, that's
why HaShem commanded us to keep Shemitah."

"Shemitah?" Avi repeated, somewhat puzzled.

"What's that?"

Uncle Abe explained: "For six years we work the land, and then, on
the seventh year, we stop plowing and planting."

"That sound's like Shabbat!" exclaimed Avi.

"In a way it is!" Uncle Abe replied. "It is a Shabbat for the land.

We do not work the land at all. It reminds us, that it's not the earth
that supplies us, but HaShem that makes things grow!"

"But then, how do you make a living, Uncle Abe?" asked Avi.

"I can't imagine my father taking a year off from work!"

Uncle Abe explained: "There are some types of work in the fields
that are permitted. Most important though, this Positive Mitzvah
teaches us to trust HaShem and believe that He will provide us with
our needs. And He does!"

The Positive Mitzvah of Shemitah applies only in Eretz Yisrael.


Positive Mitzvah 135: Resting the Land from Plowing and Reaping
during Shemitah

-Exodus 34:21 "In plowing and in harvest you shall rest"

The Torah commands us to stop working the land during the Shemitah


Negative Mitzvah 220:

It is forbidden to plant during the Shemitah year.

-Leviticus 25:4 "You shall not sow your field"

We are forbidden to plant our fields during the Shemitah year.


Negative Mitzvah 221: It is forbidden to prune trees during Shemitah

-Leviticus 25:4 "You shall not prune your vineyard"

We are forbidden to prune our vineyards or trees during the Shemitah year. Pruning is snipping off extra branches or twigs that interfere with other growing branches.


Negative Mitzvah 222: It is forbidden to harvest crops in a regular

-Leviticus 25:5 "That which grows of its own accord of your harvest, you shall not reap"

During the Shemitah year, many crops that had been planted during the sixth year continue to grow on their own and become ripe. We are allowed to eat those crops, but we must harves them differently than we normally would.

For example, instead of collecting the entire crop at once and packaging it, we pick only the amount that we need to use in the immediate future. We are not permitted to harvest those crops in the same manner which we do every other year.


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