In the Drivers Seat

(Torah Portion Behar/Bechukosai) In the Drivers Seat

Google is in the midst of experimenting with a driverless car which is steered by computers, cameras, and sensors, using Google maps for its navigation. Amazingly, the State of Nevada recently issued a license for a driverless car.

In the seventies, Rabbi Pinchos Jung wrote an essay about such a futuristic driverless car. When the Jewish nation miraculously left Egypt, they were navigated by G-d with practically no exertion on their part. They were literally swooped out of Egypt in the nick of time and immediately transformed into a free nation – the nation of G-d.

Since the Nation gained this awesome inspiration in a quick and extraordinary manner, it was in jeopardy of fading just as easily as it came. The Nation now had to attain the worthiness of experiencing G-d’s Revelation at Mount Sinai, fifty days later. Therefore they had to begin navigating their own spiritual efforts of personal growth, elevation and character refinement. To accomplish this, they were now required to be in the driver’s seat.

Yes, there was still automation during their travels in the desert; the clouds of glory protected and guided them, a pillar of fire served as their street lamps during the night and the miraculous Manna fell from Heaven to sustain them. However, ever since, every Jew is in the driver’s seat. He must be aware and attentive of his surroundings in order to proceed. We have been endowed with many laws which require and necessitate our alertness at all times.

The Sefer Hachinuch teaches that one reason G-d commanded us so many laws is because when one is involved in spiritual pursuits, it has a positive effect on his whole being. The spiritual energy that emanates from the performance of a Mitzvah empowers and energizes he who performs it to overcome challenges he is faced with.

In this respect we still maintain the automated navigation we experienced when we left Egypt, for through the performance of mitzvos G-d directs, awards, and blesses us with His protection.

An amazing example of the energy and G-dly navigation through fulfilling His will is evident through the Mitzvah of not working in the fields in the Land of Israel during the Sabbatical year. Imagine an entire year of not working the fields or profiting from its production!

G-d, in the Torah, guarantees that when we follow this law, we will experience special G-dly navigated blessings.

In the second portion we read this week, the Torah warns that the Jews will be exiled from the Land of Israel if they ignore G-d’s commandments. There it prophesizes that they would be exiled for not observing the Sabbatical years. In fact, the Jew were exiled from Israel by the Babylonians for 70 years, exactly the number of years they did not fully observe the Sabbatical and Jubilee years from the time they conquered the land.

The laws of the Sabbatical year are most challenging. The verse refers to those that observe these laws as, “angels with amazing strength.” The observance of other Mitzvos may take anywhere from a split second to a few days. However, the law of the Sabbatical year restricts productive involvement in one’s only source of sustenance – his field, for an entire year. Yes, it is most challenging, yet, when one observes this mitzvah one recognizes that the miraculous blessings are far more awesome than……. a driverless car!

Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks