Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Behar
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Iyar 11 5779
"And if you will cry out, in the 7th year, & say, ‘What shall we eat?’ I will command My blessing upon you."

Our Sedra, of course, deals with the many laws of the fascinating Mitzvah of Sh’mita – when we let the land "rest" every 7 years. In an agricultural society – as Israel primarily was for centuries – this is certainly counterintuitive & unparalleled. Why did Hashem ordain it?

While there are those who want to say that laying fallow reinvigorates the nutrients of the soil, most agronomists are of the opinion that "taking off" a year does not necessarily result in a greater yield in the future. And so most authorities say Sh’mita was designed for one of two purposes: First, it strengthened our sense of faith in G-d & reinforced the truth that Parnasa, prosperity, comes only from the hand of Hashem & not from our own doing. Secondly, it allowed the farmer to "take a break" from his material concerns & devote himself for at least a while to spiritual pursuits – a true "Sabbatical."

But I want to suggest 2 other themes behind the Sh’mita. One is the message that "Eretz Yisrael Chai!" The Land of Israel lives, literally. Unlike all other pieces of real estate in the world, Israel’s land is alive – it feels, it sings, it rejoices, it even dances! And it rests, as we do. Pay careful attention to the Tehilim we say each Erev Shabbat in Kabbalat Shabbat & you will see this idea vividly expressed.

The second theme relates to the kind of lifestyle I believe Hashem wants us ideally to follow, a lifestyle that is not centered on amassing the greatest number of toys & engaging in conspicuous consumption. But rather about each of us becoming ecologically-minded & minimalist, at least when it comes to using – and not abusing – the Earth’s resources.

G-d promises that, if we cry out, we will be given a 3-fold produce in the 6th year, enough to last until the new crops are ready, after the Shmita year has ended. But what if we do not cry out? What if we have complete Emuna & totally trust Hashem to look after us? What do we receive then? The answer is that then we will not need a triple-crop at all (which results in triple work to be done when we harvest). Instead, we will miraculously be satisfied with the regular produce of the 6th year, which will somehow be sufficient for 3 years. Like Bubbie’s bottomless soup pot or Zayde Avraham’s endless Cholent, there will somehow be enough, & we won’t go hungry The bracha, you see, will be in the stomach, & not in the silo!

This blessing, if you stop for a moment & think, has been given to us all throughout our history. Even when we were denied employment, university, guilds or ownership of land, we did not starve, we stayed alive against all odds. Just "faith" the fact: believe, & you will receive.
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