Dvar Torah Shabbat Chol Hamoed Sukkot 5774 2013

In the reading of every Chol Hamo’ed there is a portion that mentions the three festivals during which time the Jews in Israel were to makeעלית הרגל , a pilgrimage to Yerushalayim. In the midst of mentioning these holidays the Torah suddenly speaks about the prohibition of working on Shabbat. We are told that we should work six days: וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי תִּשְׁבֹּת בֶּחָרִישׁ וּבַקָּצִיר תִּשְׁבֹּת, “…and on the seventh day you shall rest, you shall rest from plowing and from harvesting.” (Ex. 34,21)

Since we are prohibited from doing work on the Sabbath day, why does the Torah add to tell us that we should rest from plowing and from harvesting? Are these works not included already in the general prohibition of doing work on the Sabbath?

Rabbi Akiva in the Talmud claims that this prohibition really refers to the Shmita or Sabbatical year when all work in the field is prohibited. He contends that the Torah prohibits plowing even before the Shmita year what will grow in the Shmita and harvesting even after the Shmita year what grew during Shmita.

The purpose is to add to the sanctity of the Shmita before and after. Among other reasons the Shmita year is to enrich the life of the Jew and to release him so he can devote his time to study Torah and for other religious functions. This teaches that spiritual values should extend beyond the actual time devoted to their performance.

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