Shmita: The Purpose of Sinai

by Rabbi David Seidenberg
This essay explores the possibility that perhaps the whole purpose of the Covenant at Sinai was to create a society that observed Shmita, and that Shmita creates the possibility to bring the world back into an Edenic harmony.

What does Shmita, the Sabbatical year, have to do with Mt. Sinai?
מה עניין שמיטה אצל הר סיני?
This question was famously asked by one of the oldest midrashim, Sifra (Behar 1), and it has been pondered over for centuries. The
question arises from the way the portion about the Sabbatical
year is introduced in the Torah: “YHVH spoke to Moshe in Mount
Sinai saying: Speak to Israel’s children and say unto them:
When you come to the land which I give you, the land will rest,
a shabbat for YHVH…In the seventh year, it will be the Sabbath of
sabbaths for the land, a Sabbath for YHVH.” (Lev. 25:2-4) If all the
commandments were given at Sinai, the midrash wonders, why
is Mt. Sinai only mentioned here?