At the end of last weeks Perashah, Perashat Emor, we learned about all the holidays of the year that entail six holy days that culminate with a 7th day. The Vilna Gaon explains on the pasuk from last weeks Perashah "For six days labor may be done, and the seventh day is a day of complete rest...". In addition to this applying to the days of the week the Rabbis also apply this to the days of the year.
There are seven holy days specified in this Perashah. The first and seventh days of Pesah, one day of Shavuot, one day of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, the first day of Sukkot and Shemini Atseret. On six of these days we are allowed to do some work, such as cooking and carrying, but on the seventh day. Yom Kippur, we are not. So Yom Kippur is to the year what Shabbat is to the week and is recognized in the Torah as "Shabbat Shabbaton!"
Now we're about to learn about another Shabbat, Shemittah, the Shabbat for the land to rest. It says in the first pasuk,"Hashem spoke to Moshe on Har Sinai, saying: Speak to B'nei Yisrael and say to them: When you come to the land that I give you, the land shall observe a Sabbath rest for Hashem; for six years you may sow your fields and for six years you may prune your vineyard; and you may gather in your crop. But the seventh year shall be a complete rest for the land, a Sabbath for Hashem; your field shall not sow and your vineyard shall not prune".
Just imagine someone told you to close your store or your business for an entire year every 7th year, how could anyone survive? If we can think about this concept, its an unbelievable test that we must pass. The Torah is aware of this great test and in perk 25 pasuk 19 it says, "The land will give its' fruit and you will eat your fill; you will dwell securely upon it". Rashi says on the words, "you will dwell securely" that in return for observing the Shemittah, they would not be exiled. Now Hashem offers assurance that those who let their land lie fallow will not suffer famine.
According to the Hatam Sofer, the laws of Shemittah prove that only Hashem is the author of our holy Torah, because this Perashah guarantees that the year before Shemittah will produce a crop large enough to last for three years, (the 6th, 7th and 8th years), until the next available crop is harvested. If a human being were inventing such a commandment, he would have to be crazy to make such a prediction because if it doesn't happen he will be disproved. Only G-D can make such a statement!
Our Rabbis teach us that the reason for the Galut of 70 years that B'nei Yisrael went through between the first and second Bet Hamikdash was a calculation of all the Shemittah years that weren't observed properly. The Shemittah laws that Hashem imposed on us in this Perashah is an obligation for us and a test to follow Hashem. We might think that the soil is an inanimate object that doesn't need rest but agriculturally it is a known fact that the land needs rest to grow produce properly.
The Or HaHayyIm wrote that the sixth year, which should be the weakest because the land produced for six straight years, was the year that was blessed to produce for the 6th 7th and 8th year S during Shemittah. Hashem gave us the land of Israel and He gave us rules, a set of instructions on how to use the land most effectively just like He gave us our lives to live by the rules of the Torah.
Hashem is saying to us, that He gave us this land and it needs to rest for one year every 6 years in order for it to produce for us. Hashem is saying to us, this is a test just like our Shabbat, because our parnasah is not in our hands although we may believe that our parnasah comes from our efforts. Rabbi Diamond always taught us that our work is "Muchrah ve lo Moyile" which means "Its Necessary, but it doesn't do Anything" a very difficult concept for us to comprehend.
Hashem is simply saying to us, follow my rules, keep my laws and you'll have parnasah. Follow the laws of Shemittah, give tzedakah to the poor people by leaving what falls for them to collect...Do these things and you'll have parnasah! Hashem is saying, you must play by my rules, not by what you may think makes sense, because Hashem make the rules and Hashem runs the world! Parnasah comes from Hashem, regardless of whether our human logic disagrees.
The pasuk (25;19) states, "The land will give its fruit and you will eat your fill; you will dwell securely upon it. If you will say: What will we eat in the seventh year?--behold! we will not sow and not gather in our crops!" Sforno comments on pasuk 19, a promise from Hashem that whatever food you have will suffice, thanks to Hashem's berachot. But if you lack the faith to rely on this and you ask how only one crop can be enough for so long, Hashem promises to ordain His berachot for you to such an extent that the prosperity will be plain enough to set your mind at ease!
The bottom line is that if you ask, you'll get quantity but if you don't ask, you may not get quantity but you'll get quality. In other words, a Rabbi that makes a limited income, still his life may be very satisfying. As opposed to someone else that earns a million dollars a year but his life may be in disarray where he can't even make ends meet on such a large income, therefore he may not have a life that's satisfying.
There's an amazing documented story that exemplifies this concept. This story occurred recently with a farmer in Israel in the recent Shemittah year of 5775 (Sept 25, 2014 to Sept 13, 2015). During this past summer of 2015, a brush fire broke out in Eretz Yisrael near Tel Aviv. Within minutes ALL of the fields turned to ashes. All the crops and produce were totally destroyed. However smack in the middle and center of all those fields there was one field, which had signs proclaiming that its owner proudly observed the laws of Shemittah.
Amazingly this lone field was untouched by the fire and remained perfectly intact and unharmed. Despite the fact that it contained large amounts of dry weeds and brush, this field remained totally unscathed! Imagine for a minute that a fire broke out on the block where you had your store and your store was the only one that was closed on Shabbat and it was also the only store that didn't burn down amidst all the other stores on the block that did. That's exactly the miracle that occurred in Israel!
Ramban says that the comparison between Shemittah and the Shabbat is that both bear testimony to Hashems' creation of the universe in six days and His rest on the seventh day. The seven years of the Shemittah cycle also allude to the six thousand years of history that will be climaxed by the seventh Millenium and the guarantee of the Mashiah's arrival, which will be a period of peace and tranquility.
We also read Behukotai this week and the first pasuk begins with "If you will follow My decrees and observe My commandments and perform them". This pasuk seems a little redundant because it repeats itself three times. "Follow My decrees" then "Observe my Commandments and perform them". Rashi explains that the pasuk is talking about toiling in Torah study. We must know that the study of the Torah is the essence of a Jew and it's what separates us from all the other nations of the world. That pasuk is a hint that we must learn Torah and review our learning over and over again until we own it.
The toiling in Torah is the highest level of what a Jew must do in this world and we should be involved in the Torah learning day and night, as it's mentioned in the Shema Yisrael that we read three times a day. By following Hashem's laws of Shabbat and Shemittah and being constantly involved in learning Torah, Hashem is telling us, Don't worry, because I'm taking care of your parnasah. This will also give us a tremendous sense of peace and tranquility!
May we all have the proper Emunah and Bitahon in Hashem that He will provide for us when we follow His laws, despite the fact that they may defy human logic and because of this we may not always understand them. May we also make it our business to strive in learning Torah. These laws of Shabbat and the laws of Shemittah of the land which Hashem gave to us are all for our benefit! Amen!