Hashem spoke to Moshe Rabbeinu on Har Sinai concerning the laws of Shemittah, the Sabbatical/seventh year. Rashi asks: Why Shemittah? How is Shemittah linked to Sinai? He explains that the Torah is teaching us that just like Shemittah is detailed with rules and fine points, likewise, this applies to all mitzvos; their rules and details were taught to them at that time as well. The laws of Shemittah were not repeated again prior to the Jews’ entrance into the Land. As such, everything took place at Sinai, with Shemittah serving as the exemplar, prototype, for all other mitzvos. Is this lesson so vital to our observance of mitzvos that the Torah underscores the fact that the minutiae of details of the mitzvos heralds back to Sinai? Furthermore, to cite the Ohr HaChaim Hakadosh, why is Shemittah selected, as opposed to any other mitzvah, to demonstrate this fact?
Horav Nissan Alpert, zl, explains that the lesson for us is that we have maintained the same degree of sanctity upon hearing the details of the mitzvah as we had when we heard its general principles. Sometimes we hear a general concept and we agree, accept and are prepared to move forward with execution until we hear the details, the nitty gritty, daily demands. Klal Yisrael did not flinch when they heard the details. Why is this so important?
The Rosh Yeshivah offers a number of citations which emphasize the significance of incorporating the Revelation, the moment when we received the Torah at Sinai, into our daily learning. V’hodaatam levanecha v’livnei vancha…yom asher amadatam lifnei Hashem Elokecha b’Chorev. “And you shall teach it to your children and to your grandchildren…the day upon which you stood before Hashem, your G-d, in Chorev.” We are to incorporate that feeling of awe, trembling and quaking into our Torah study. (Berachos 12a) “Each day the Torah shall be (as) new in your eyes” (Rashi, Devarim 26:16). The Torah should always appear to us as a gift which everyone seeks to possess and enjoy.
Rashi writes that this “newness” should be our attitude towards the manner in which we relate to mitzvah observance. In other words, mitzvah observance should be exciting, invigorating, ideal. The problem is: How does one inject this flavor, this life, into something he has done a thousand times? Is it realistic to expect someone to maintain the same attitude on his 1001st time as he had the very first time he carried out the mitzvah?
Rav Alpert quotes the Chazon Ish, zl, who posits that if each time one performs a mitzvah, he does so with the complete intention of fulfilling its every detail, then each time he performs that mitzvah it will be as if it was his very first time – as if he had just been commanded regarding its observance.
We now understand the significance of Shemittah and why it was (possibly) selected as the mitzvah to emphasize detail and newness. Shemittah is replete with detail. Furthermore, Shemittah is a once in seven-year mitzvah. The average Jew probably will not have the Shemittah experience more than ten times in his life. Thus, each cycle will present itself as something exceedingly new and novel, something for which he has been waiting for the past six years. We are instructed to view each and every mitzvah as we view Shemittah, the uncommon, wait-for-six-years mitzvah. As the Chazon Ish teaches, the key is to view each mitzvah as being so special, so precious, that we want to be in the proper frame of mind to carry it out meticulously, with extreme care, paying attention to every detail as if we were performing it for the very first time.