Shemittah Park: Here we plant values
Shemittah Park: Here we plant valuesSharon Altshul

In Parashat Mishpatim, we are commanded (23:10-11):’Six years you may sow your land and gather in its produce, But in the seventh year, you shall release it and abandon it; the poor of your people shall eat it, and what they leave over, the beasts of the field shall eat. So shall you do to your vineyards and to your olive trees.’
In our Parasha, Parashat Behar, this wondrous Mitzvah is relayed in an expanded form:(25:1-5), as Moshe is commanded to say to Bnei Israel:’When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall observe a Sabbath rest for Hashem. For six years you may sow your field..prune your vineyard..(and) gather in its crop. But the seventh year shall be a complete rest for the land, a Sabbath for Hashem; your field you shall not sow and your vineyard you shall not prune. The aftergrowth of your harvest you shall not reap and the grapes you had set aside for yourself you shall not pick; it shall be a year of rest fot the land.’
The Chinuch, in his unique manner, expounds that there are four שורשי:’roots’ for this Mitzvah, each of them being fundaments of our faith, concluding that their overall purpose is ‘to increase in us בטחון: trust in Hashem.’
Rav Chaim Friedlander brings - and elucidates - each of the four roots that the Chinuch has discerned.
‘First:’To instill in our hearts the matter of the renewal of our world, by requiring us to count six years, and to rest on the seventh, much in the same way that we count the six week days as days of labor, and the seventh is a day of rest.
‘It is not sufficient to have the acceptance that Hashem created all creation - we need to reinforce this every moment, by counting the six years towards the rest on the seventh year, as this constantly brings to our minds that each and every day, Hashem, in His goodness, renews creation.
‘The second ‘root’, is the command to ‘abandon’ all that the earth produces, in that year,
so that - in addition to the earth resting - we should remember that all that the earth produces each year, is not because of its power, but that it has a master and owner, and when He so desires, we are to abandon the produce of the land.
‘Thereby man does not come to the apostasy of ‘my might and my hand made me all this prosperity’.
‘By the command to leave the land unworked in the seventh year, we recognize that what it produced in the preceding six years was only ‘because Hashem gave you the strength to make your wealth’.
‘This mussar was especially needed when Bnei Israel entered the land, as the Torah adjures us in several places, our material success can lead one to this apostasy, and ‘to forget Hashem’, as prosperity leads to haughtiness.
‘This is more so in the case of ownership of land, than other possessions, because the latter are often easily ‘lost’ - but not so land, with which man feels a greater sense of identity.
‘The Mitzvah of Shemittah, in addition to reminding us that Hashem is the master of all creation, reinforces this by prohibiting us to work the land in the seventh year.
‘The third root, is to acquire by this Mitzvah the attribute of forbearance, of giving without expectation of reward, be it to be honored or for any other ulterior reason.
‘Man, by his nature, is selfish and self-centered; this Mitzvah instills in him true, pure forbearance, as he ‘abandons’ the produce of his land, to all, in the Shemittah year, without any possibility of recompense.
‘The fourth - and final - root of this wondrous Mitzvah is to greatly strengthen the attribute of בטחון: trust, in Hashem.
‘The person, who has worked for years, and generations, land that is his ancestral holding, because of the effort he has expended in toil in it, becomes greatly attached to it; this, in addition to his sentimental attachment to his inheritance.
‘Yet he is required, in the Shemittah year, to leave it to anyone who chooses to enter his land, and consume its produce.
‘This is only possible because of the attribute of bitachon that the person has, that all that he ‘has’ is, in reality, from Hashem.
‘True bitachon is the acceptance - the recognition - that Hashem ‘manages’ all in this world. This enables man to totally negate the feeling of ‘my strength and my hand made me this wealth’, and to put all his trust in Hashem - and not in ‘his’ wealth.’
Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, notes the unique severity, for the failure to observe the Mitzvah of Shemittah, ‘the punishment is the most severe of all - exile from the land .
‘Perhaps the reason is because, at its foundation, the Mitzvah of Shemittah is to instill in Bnei Israel the attribute of bitachon ( though other roots are proffered for the Mitzvah, the acquisition of bitachon, would seem to be the main one ).
‘Once in every seven years, it is incumbent on all Bnei Israel, for one complete year, to ascend to a higher level of being, removed from all material bases, and to cast all their being in the hands of Hashem.
‘In this year, the attribute of bitachon is reinforced in each person - a necessity for the people of Hashem, one and all, down to the humble agriculture worker, and in this uniquely demanding manner, that failure to observe it brings the extreme punishment of exile from the land, because זה כל האדם: this is ‘all of man’: bitachon.’
Rav Gedalia Scharr sweetens our appreciation, of what the Mitzvah demands:’To merely be silent, and not protest, upon seeing all who wish to do so, enter one’s land, and consume its fruits, is not what is demanded, as if, there being no alternative, one does not protest.
‘The Mitzvah demands a ‘silence of acquiesence’, with full heart, without any second thoughts or murmurs, with full bitachon in Hashem, that the promise of the Torah will
be fulfilled.’
Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl adds:’ The severity of the punishment for not observing Shemittah, has three obvious reasons:First, it testifies that Hashem created the world in six days, and rested on the seventh.
‘This is the ‘foundational rope of our faith’, that Hashem created - and continues to renew- all in our world.
Ramban says:’Whoever הכופר: is a heretic as to the Mitzvah of Shemittah, denies creation and the world-to-come.
‘Second - beyond the testimony of the Shabbat - the Mitzvah of Shemittah attests to the sanctity of the Land of Israel, as being ‘Hashem’s Land’.
‘For this reason, the punishment of exile from the land, is appropriate, as, by not observing this Mitzvah, the person is, as it were, saying that he is the master of the land - comes its true owner, Hashem, and evicts him.
‘Finally, this Mitzvah comes to sensitize our souls, to feel the suffering of the indigent, as we - the land owners - once in every seven years, are dispossessed, and, for that year, become indigent and without means ourselves.’
A parting gem from Rav Chaim iChernowitz.
The Rav brings a beautiful original interpretation, to a pasuk which - if read literally - would seem to cast doubts on the level of bitachon of Bnei Israel, as to our Mitzvah, leading Hashem to allay their concern.
We read:(25:20-21)’If you will say: What will we eat in the seventh year? We will not sow and not gather in our crops!. I will ordain My blessing for you in the sixth year and it will yield a crop sufficient for the three year period.’
Expounds the Rav: ‘The people were not lacking in bitachon! To the contrary, as indicated by the Torah using the soft words כי תאמרו, instead of the ‘harsher’ words כי תגידו, full of trust in Hashem’s goodness, they wondered:’What will we eat..’, meaning: Let us see in what wondrous way will Hashem sustain us, in the way he sustained us with manna from Above, or what other miracle will He perform, to sustain us in the year that the land will lie barren.
Concludes the Rav:’This is a cardinal principle of bitachon and emunah, that our sustenance will be provided by Hashem in His goodness.’
לרפואת כל פצועי צה"ל ופגועי טרור, וכן לנועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו