Rabbi Yonah Burr
Bechukosai: Farming Based on Miracles
כל ימי השמה תשבת את אשר לא שבתה בשבתתיכם בשבתכם עליה (ויקרא כו:לה)
“All the days of desolation the land will rest, that which it did not rest while you were dwelling upon it”
It is clear from this Pasuk that a major cause of the exile was the violation of the Shmitta laws. Why is the punishment so severe?
We also find, that the Torah refers to Shmitta, as "שבת שבתון יהיה לארץ שבת לה׳, a Shabbos it shall be for the land, a Shabbos for Hashem." In what way is Shmitta compared to Shabbos?
The Klei Yakar, in the beginning of Parshas Behar, develops an idea that not only explains Shmitta, but serves as a world outlook in general.
A System Engineered to Teach Emunah
Hashem was concerned that as the Jewish People begin to work the land and see success, they would become entrenched in the physical, and no longer turn towards Him. Hashem wants to shower us with His goodness, but also be sure that we will attribute our success to Him, and not be complacent and attribute it to ourselves.
To this end, Hashem removed the farmer from the natural order completely. Ordinarily, the farmer ‘rotates’ his crops, planting two years and letting the land rest for one. By alternating the use of his fields, he allows the soil to replenish itself. The Shmitta cycle requires the farmer to plant all six, running the risk of depleting the land of its nutrients, and yielding inferior produce.
But that is not what happened! On the contrary, the crops became increasingly plentiful, all the way to the end! Then, the farmer is asked to allow all his fields to lie fallow for an entire year; but the blessing would continue and the Jewish People would have plenty to eat.
The entire system was designed specifically to run on a miracle. Although we normally do not rely on miracles, this was an exception. Our entire livelihood would be run in a way that expected and relied on miracles! In this way, we would be ‘forced’ to see the Hand of Hashem in everything that we do. It was a system designed to cultivate Emunah.
The Ramban says a similar idea in Parshas Eikev. The Torah contrasts Eretz Yisroel with Eretz Mitzrayim:
“The land that you will be entering is not like Mitzrayim, where you can plant and irrigate like a vegetable garden. The land that you will crossing over into is a land of mountains and plains, through the rain you will water the land; it is a land that Hashem seeks constantly; His eye is upon it, from the beginning of the year until the end”.
Shabbos and Shemitta
The Ramban explains that the Torah is telling us that Eretz Yisroel itself is designed to cultivate Emunah. There is nothing natural about the land, and it forces us to look Heavenward. Just as Eretz Yisroel cultivates our Emunah, Shabbos likewise is an important builder of Emunah. We were given Eretz Yisroel as a ‘tool’ to reach these levels of trust in Hashem, just as Shabbos is given as a tool to express our Emunah. If we don’t use it properly, we risk it being taken away.
May we continue to strive to see Hashem in our lives, and climb to ever greater heights!
Have a wonderful Shabbos!