The Philosophy of Shemitta
Teacher Title Abstract Course
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #01: The Gift of the Shemitta Challenge Shemitta, the sabbatical year, is once again upon us. It is with tremendous gratitude to the Almighty that we begin this series on machshevet ha-shemitta, the philosophy of the shemitta year, examining the deeper significance of its particular mitzvot. The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #02: The Passages of Shemitta In our last lesson, we presented an overview of the mitzvot associated with shemitta. However, even a bird's-eye view of shemitta requires a basic introduction to the multifaceted nature of its mitzvot. The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #03: The Land and the People While shemitta is discussed in many places in the Torah, its appearance in the penultimate chapter of Vayikra is striking. Shemitta suddenly turns from a collection of mitzvot to a primary reason for exile. The explanation leads us back to the beginnings of man, as the experiences of Adam, Kayin and Noach help explicate the mystery that is shemitta. The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #04: The Interdependence of the Man and the Land After the cataclysm of Noach, a new covenant is forged with Avraham, connecting his descendants to a specific land, Eretz Yisra'el. The interplay between the terms eretz and adama show how essential this concept is--and how it is embodied in the concept of shemitta. The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #05: Shemitta's Obligation and its Implications What are the implications of nonobservance of shemitta? The consequences, personal and national, spiritual and material, are devastating. Indeed, the historical shortcomings of the Jewish people in this sphere continue to have an impact on the halakhic power of shemitta in modern times. The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #06: The Return The historical significance of shemitta may be seen in the desolation which characterized the land until Jews began to return in modern times. The link between the Nation of Israel and the Land of Israel is expressed through the latter's refusal to sustain any other people. The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #07: The Four Reasons What is the reasoning behind shemitta and its mitzvot? We fulfill them as God's word, but what message are we to glean from them? The commentators present four approaches to find the true "flavor" of shemitta. The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #08: Emuna and Bitachon What do faith and trust in God really mean, and how are they realized through the shemitta experience? The commentators provide us with a number of approaches to get into the theological and philosophical underpinnings of the sabbatical year. The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #09: Bein Adam La-Makom II-Gibborei Khoach Shemitta may be seen as a leap of faith, but how does observing it make one a hero? How can this septennial observance influence one's entire lifelong struggle for meaning and purpose? We continue to explore the theology of shemitta. The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #10: Interpersonal Messages The various Torah portions which discuss the laws of shemitta present a complex view of this year as an exercise in compassion, ultimately leading to national unity as the rich not only share with the poor, but experience their lives as well. The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #11: Shemitta's Powerful Effect on Personality Shemitta is about more than one's relationship with God and with his fellow man; it is about one's personality and attitude. The heroism demanded by the sabbatical year refines one's character traits in the six "normal" years as well. The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #12: Between Man, the Earth and His Land What does the sabbatical year mean for the Land of Israel itself? Can the earth have feelings and needs, and what does the Torah want of us? We examine the concept of nature in Judaism, as seen through the lens of shemitta. The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #13: The Gift of Israel — The Condition of Shemitta Shemitta tells us a great deal about the link between the Jewish people and Eretz Yisrael. It is not for naught that this is the "sabbatical year," reflecting the weekly Shabbat and its rejuvenatory powers. The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #14: Rav Kook's Preface to Shabbat Ha-aretz Perhaps the most influential work on shemitta in the 20th century was Rabbi A.Y. Kook's Shabbat Ha-aretz. While its focus is halakhic, the preface is a masterpiece of historiography, explaining the significance of shemitta in Jewish history in general and the modern return to Israel in particular. The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #15: Rav Kook’s Perspective on the Return What is the theological significance of the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel over the past 150 years? How does it change what shemitta means, on an individual and collective level? This is explained by Rav A.Y. Kook in his introduction to Shabbat Ha-aretz. The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #16: The Shabbat Element of Shemitta Shemitta is referred to as Shabbat ha-aretz, but what does this term mean? Rav Kook's masterwork of the same name gives us an opening for understanding this deep spiritual concept, as further explained by HaRav Yehuda Amital. The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #17: The Neshama Yetera of Shabbat and Shemitta The weekly Shabbat invests within each Jew a neshama yetera, an extra soul. Does shemitta, "the Sabbath of the land," do the same? And what does that mean for its educational and spiritual message? The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #18: Shemitta in Parashat Mishpatim Shemitta's first appearance in Parashat Mishpatim raises many questions. What is an ostensibly ritual law doing amongst civil laws? What do all of them have to do with the Sinai covenant? The answers offer a unique insight into the sabbatical year. The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #19: Tishmetenna U-ntashtah – Relinquishing Ownership of Produce What exactly does the Torah seek from man in the two-word directive which first mentions the sabbatical year, tishmetenna u-ntashtah? What does relinquishing produce during shemitta mean, and how is the mitzva to be fulfilled? The answers tell us a great deal about the Jewish concept of ownership. The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #20: Shemitta in Ki Tissa – Extending Holiness Shemitta is first introduced in the Book of Shemot, but does the Torah return to this concept after the Sin of the Golden Calf? The fascinating argument about a three-word phrase has ramifications for our understanding of the second covenant between God and His people and the place of the sabbatical year therein. The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #21: The Disputed Interpretation Shemitta is the seventh year, but does it really start on Rosh Hashana? What activities are restricted in the sixth year, and what do they tell us about the nature of the sabbatical year--and holiness itself? The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #22: The Message of Tosefet Shevi'it and Tosefet Shabbat Shemitta, like Shabbat, starts "early," but what does it mean for man to add on to God's holy times? Moreover, how does this relate to the prohibition to add to mitzvot? Finally, is adding on to a sacred place comparable to adding on to a sacred time? The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #23: Shabbat Ha-aretz and Mount Sinai in Parashat Behar "What does shemitta have to do with Mount Sinai?" This famous Midrashic question challenges us to consider why exactly the Book of Vayikra concludes with a return to Sinai, how it affects our understanding of the commandments in general and what it teaches us. The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #24: Preparing for a Sinaitic Shabbat Ha-aretz Experience The unique preparations for the Giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai and the weekly preparations for Shabbat serve as the template for what it means to be ready for the sabbatical year--and all of the spiritual opportunities it affords. The Philosophy of Shemitta
Rav Binyamin Zimmerman Shiur #25: The Melakhot and the Shabbaton Spirit of the Man and the Land As we continue to delve into the sabbatical nature of shemitta, we must ask a profound question: does the Torah require the Jew not to work the land or that Jewish land not be worked? The ramifications of this distinction, legal and philosophical, are profound. The Philosophy of Shemitta

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