Hillel HaZaken (the Elder) was one of the greatest and most important
Tannaim (sages of the Mishnah), Nasi (leader) of the Jewish People, and
descendent of King David’s lineage. He lived through a very difficult time of
oppression from the Roman conquerors and was known for his extreme humility,
leaving this world around year 8 C.E..
His positions in the Mishnah are almost always the lenient ones, compared
to his rival and colleague Shammai. In light of this, the Arizal writes that he was
sourced in the aspect of Chesed (lovingkindness), while Shammai had his roots in
Gevurah (severity). Barring few cases, we always follow the law according to Beit
(the academy of) Hillel, but many Kabbalists state that, in the World to Come, we
will follow Beit Shammai, who’s stricter.
The Arizal explains that Hillel HaZaken lived 120 years, and had a special
spark of Moshe Rabbenu himself, as only few others had it.
Shmittah and the Prozbul
One of the most important inventions of Hillel HaZaken was the Prozbul.
There’s no accurate translation to this word, but the explanation is as follows:
When the 7 th year of Shmittah comes, there’s a positive commandment in the
Torah for creditors to cancel their due against debtors that owe them. This
creates a natural aversion for people to lend money when they know that the
year of Shmittah will come soon, and they won’t be able to collect their due. As a
result, fewer and fewer people are willing to lend money, making life a lot more
difficult for those in need of a loan.
The Prozbul is a mechanism through which the lender sells his contract to
the Beit Din (rabbinical court). Since the Beit Din can collect money on Shmittah
(as it is not a single person, but an organization), this simple solution solved a lot
of problems and no doubt was given to Hillel HaZaken due to his exalted level.
One might think that this would be “cheating the system”, but the
commandments of the Torah were given to improve our lives, not diminish them.
Since Hillel HaZaken saw that people were unwilling to give out loans because of
Shmittah, he realized measures needed to be taken, for the benefit of the people.
Secrets of Hillel and Shemittah
In Sha’ar HaKavanot (Gate of Mystical Intentions), the Arizal writes that no
Tefilah is ever the same. Not even if they are recited in the same day, not if they
are from the same category (like Mincha or Ma’ariv), but from a different day.
And even each and every one of us has a unique Tefilah that is unique to his/her
specific date and time. In his words, “there’s never been a Tefila that will be the
same since the beginning of Creation like the one we pray now, and there will
never be one like it until the coming of Mashiach”.
Think about how wondrous this is. Someone might be bored or tired of the
same service and think “what am I even accomplishing by praying?”. This can be
true when one doesn’t see any effects. But in reality, every day is a completely
new creation, and every single rectification we effect is new different!
The Rashas’h (Rabbi Shalom Sharabi) went further and divided the entirety
of Creation’s time according to the Sephirot. However, this division is according to
the Partzuf HaYomi (spiritual system of daily life). There are other systems, such
as the Partzuf HaZemanim (spiritual system of festivals). In this system, we see
that all Jewish Festivals have an influence throughout the entire year and it
counts the years according to Shemittah and Yovel (the 50 th year).
This is a subject which is very complicated to put into words, but we learn
that the year of Shmittah is related to the Sephira of Bina, the world of freedom
and the year we are currently in 5782. Interestingly enough there are a few
Kabbalistic schools that have the custom of not using any of the mystical
intentions for the entire year. They reason that this special year has a special
illumination that transcends the usual mystical intentions that are used
throughout the other years.
We can surmise that it’s specifically because of this illumination that
Hashem commands us to cancel all debts and all servants need to be set free.
Let’s make the most out of this year and I invite you to join Emuna Builders Tehilim Group of Women!
May you have a very blessed year filled with freedom from all struggles!
This article was written in the zechut of all Emuna Builder partners. May HaShem help them attain all their hearts desires speedily with complete emuna!
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