Divrei Torah

PARSHIOS BEHAR-BECHUKOSAI 5777

This week’s Parsha teaches us the laws of Shmitta – the Sabbatical year – the 7th and final year of the seven year cycle for the Land of Israel.  It is a time when normal planting and harvesting activities in the land of Israel cease. The land lies fallow. Worries about sowing, pruning, maintenance, reaping, market prices and other concerns become irrelevant. In the year following the Shmitta, normal agricultural activity resumes. 

G-d understands that people will worry about putting food on the table. After all, if the people are not permitted to work the land – and the Land of Israel is heavily dependent upon agriculture – then what will they eat? So, the Torah writes, “And when you will say, what will we eat in the seventh year, behold we did not plant and we will not gather our grain.” And G-d gives the answer, “And I will command my blessing to you in the sixth year and it will produce grain for three years.” For those who follow the laws of Shmitta, their fields will produce enough food to last from years six through eight.

Rav Moshe Feinstein raises a difficulty in these verses. Working the field during the sixth year will produce grain for the seventh year. The problem is going to be having grain for the year after Shmitta because no work is permitted during the seventh year. So, why will the people ask “what will we eat in the seventh year”? They will have food for the seventh year. Their question should be “what will we eat in the eighth year”? 

Rav Moshe Feinstein answers that the question itself raises issues of faith in G-d. The people think they will have food in year seven but not year eight. Who is to say that their labor will produce food from year six to year seven? Where will the seventh year food come from - from their hard work? While it is true that they must work and give effort to earn a living, but, ultimately, that seventh year food comes from G-d, just as much as the food during the year after Shmitta comes from G-d.

Although it is natural for the people to worry about from where their next meal will come, we must realize that everything we have comes from G-d. That does not mean we can just sit back and say “I believe in G-d, if He wants, I will get it.” We are obligated to put forth effort. However, the results are in G-d’s hands. In general there are no guarantees. Nobody has a written contract. However, regarding Shmitta, the Torah promises the Jewish people that through keeping the laws of Shmitta, G-d will bless their land and there is no need to worry. Just as the Shabbos brings blessing to the rest of the week, so too does the Shmitta – the Shabbos for the Land of Israel – bring blessing to the next six years.