Rabbi Yehuda David
Former Rosh Kollel in Dayton
On the eve of entering the Promised Land, Am Yisrael accepts upon itself dozens of mitzvot, including many agricultural mitzvot. One such mitzvah is mentioned in our parsha: hafrashat (separating) trumah gedolah.
This mitzvah is part of mitzvat hafrashat trumot u’maasrot, which, according to most poskim (Mishneh Torah LaRambam, Trumot 1:26), is obligatory d’orayta (from the Torah) under two conditions:
- In Eretz Yisrael, and
- When the whole nation is in Eretz Yisrael. (See the Rambam ibid, but the Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 385, says that a majority of the nation is sufficient.)
Today, most mitzvot hat’luoyt ba’aretz (Eretz Yisrael-dependent mitzvot) are dirabbanan (rabbinic) rather than d’orayta. We must therefore ask: what is the role of these mitzvot in our time?
Undoubtedly, current reality is far from the ideal situation. When matters are ideal – when “temidin kisidran” (literally, “the tamidofferings in their order”), the Shechinah descends, and the Divine Presence is more tangible than it is today – everyone understands the importance of mitzvat hafrashat trumot u’maasrot and the other matanot kehunah (presents to the kohein). Furthermore, the kohein’s roles as Hashem’s servant in the Beit HaMikdash and as a disseminator of Torah are part of everyday life. Also, since the kohein does not have a nachalah (an inheritance of land), these mitzvot serve an obvious purpose. After all, without the matanot kehunah, he would have no way of earning a living.
The Sefer HaChinuch states (Mitzvah 507):
“The roots of the mitzvah: Since grain and wine and oil are mankind’s primary sustenance, and the entire world belongs to HaKadosh Baruch Hu, it is therefore fitting for man to remember his Creator over the blessing that He bestowed. And he should separate a small amount in His Blessed Name and give it to His servants, who are thekohanim who are constantly involved in Heaven’s labor, before letting anyone touch it or derive any benefit from it.”
In Orot HaTechiya (5, p. 56), Rav Kook (whose yahrzeit falls on 3 Elul) attaches great importance to these mitzvot. Everyone has cherished memories of good times in their lives; these memories are treasured and lovingly recalled upon occasion. Nations also have memories. Observing the minhagim and the mitzvot is a way of remembering the periods of splendor and holiness. The very fact that Am Yisrael kept the mitzvot throughout the generations motivates us and causes us to feel that we are part of a long and tiresome process. That progression is set to culminate with the maximum and optimal observance of these same mitzvot. Seeing matters in this light also prevents us from despairing. Although our current situation is far from ideal – there is no Mikdash, noShechinah, and therefore we are unable to observe all 613 mitzvot – we recognize that our present era is a link in the chain which connects the past to the future. As Rav Kook states succinctly:
“Our past is great, and our future is even greater.”
This idea applies to mitzvot hat’luoyt ba’aretz in particular. By observing these mitzvot – even if they do not have the highest halachic standing and even if they involve heterim (leniencies) and “tricks” – we reinforce our bond with Netzach Yisrael. In addition, we thus acquire habits and familiarize ourselves with norms which will serve us well in the future. As Rav Kook says:
“Matters now appear to us to be all shriveled up. They have a meager appearance. However, they are filled with life and great interest inside.”
When we observe these mitzvot, Rav Kook continues:
“The soul that observes is acted upon clandestinely. Actions are made to constantly brighten an eish kodesh (a holy fire) of ahavat ha’Aretz (love of Eretz Yisrael)… And the nation is educated during the days of its wretchedness for a spirit of loftiness.”
Thus, our generation has a specific imperative to focus on these mitzvot. Yechezkel HaNavi prophesized:
“And you, the mountains of Israel, will produce your branches and bear your fruit for My people Israel when they are about to come.” (Yechezkel 36:8)
The Gemara (BT Sanhedrin 98a) states:
“And R’ Abba said, ‘There is no clearer indication of the “End” than this.’”
Am Yisrael’s return to our land, the agricultural prosperity in particular, and life in general all comprise a clear sign of the imminent redemption. Therefore, by observing the mitzvot hat’luoyt ba’aretz today, when the Beit HaMikdash is not yet rebuilt, we reveal our hope for:
“A full life that will come to us with the arrival of full salvation to our nation on our land, for an eternal salvation.” (Orot HaTechiya 5, p. 58)