Parashas Re’eh, Part 2

Shlomo HaMelech declares (Koheles 1:9): “There is nothing beneath the sun that is all new.” The Gemara in Shabbos 30b recounts a discussion relating to this statement between Rabban Gamliel and a certain contrary student. The student, based on this statement, questioned a number of prophecies about the end of days: women giving birth every day, and loaves and silken robes growing out of the ground in the Land of Israel. Rabban Gamliel responded by showing him examples of some existing precursors: hens laying eggs every day, mushrooms and truffles, and the downy material on the inner side of young palm shoots.
Rabban Gamliel was teaching that, in the end of days, the world will be restored to its original state, as it was before Adam sinned. The student, citing Shlomo’s statement, challenged him. The student argued that, given the world as it is now, the blessings that Rabban Gamliel described would be totally new. They may have existed in the beginning, but Adam’s sin eradicated them. Rabban Gamliel answered the student by showing him that the blessings that were eradicated by Adam’s sin were not eradicated entirely. Hashem left every constituent of the world with some small remnant of the blessing it originally bore – so that when the blessing is restored in its original form, the result will not be a totally new creation. Rabban Gamliel demonstrated his point with the examples he described. From these specific cases, we can infer the general scheme: of every lost blessing there is left some remnant, through which the blessing will ultimately be restored.
Our parashah provides a further example. The Torah states (Devarim 15:1-18):
At the end of [every] seven years, you shall institute a release [of loans]. And this is the law of the release: every creditor must release the claim that he holds against his fellow – he must not demand payment from his fellow or his brother. …When your kinsman, a Hebrew man or Hebrew woman, is sold to you, he shall serve you for six years, and in the seventh year you shall send him out free. … And Hashem your God shall bless you in all that you do.
The Maggid explains the idea behind this passage as follows. At present, due to our many sins, the earth is spoiled: it does not yield the bounty that it did before Adam sinned. As a result, hardship compels some people to borrow from others, or even to sell themselves to others as slaves. But the Torah left us with a remnant of our original era of prosperity, when such steps were unnecessary, by directing us to release loans in the sabbatical year and to set Hebrew slaves free after six years of service. We await the era when the earth will produce as before, making us perpetually free of debt and servitude. In order that this state not be a totally new one, Hashem issued the directives just mentioned, which periodically bring us an element of such freedom. By observing these directives, we enable the future restoration of our former prosperity. Thus the Torah declares: “For Hashem your God has blessed you, as He has told you.” When the time comes, Hashem will bless us in a way that will bring us eternally into the state that He is telling us about now: freedom from debt and servitude.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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