Regarding Shemittah, the Torah states that perhaps we will be fearful and ask “what will I eat?”. Hashem then reassures us and says that we will have the same amount of food as before and even more (25: 20-22).
This is quite unusual; usually, the Torah does not address our fears that may arise from the performance of a mitzvah. Instead, the Torah usually only details the mitzvah, and it is our job to strengthen our emunah, bitachon, etc. and to follow it.
As but a small example of many, the Torah does not address any natural worries a person can have regarding the logistic difficulties of eating kosher, the difficulties of honoring elderly parents, etc. Instead, the Torah simply commands us to do so, and we do; as we promised, na’aseh v’nishmah.
What’s different about Shemittah; Why does Hashem highlight our potential concerns, and also address them by reassuring us, specifically with this mitzvah?
Someone from a primitive village once saved the life of the mayor of a large city. The grateful mayor turned to the primitive man and told him, “as a reward, and as a token of my appreciation, I want you to come with me to the big city & I will get you anything that you ask for”. The mayor then promptly brought the primitive villager to his home in the big city.
At the mayor’s house, at some point, the mayor turned on his sink faucet and filled himself a glass of water. When the simple villager saw this, he froze, his eyes wide-open in wonder and fascination. After all, in this man’s primitive village, drought was a constant fear that hung over all of the town.
The villager turned to the mayor and asked if he could please claim the faucet as his reward. The mayor was surprised by the odd request, but after the primitive villager insisted that he was certain that this was the reward that he wanted, the mayor took the faucet off of his own sink and presented it to the villager.
The villager took the faucet back to his hometown and invited everyone far and wide to see his incredible gift, explaining that it had the power to resolve the drought issues the town had always battled, and that it would produce all of the water that the town could need. People eagerly gathered in the town square to see the feat.
However, to everyone’s dismay, when the villager turned the knob, not a single drop of water came out.
First, the villager looked confused. Next, he was embarrassed. Then, he became furious. “The mayor lied to me!”, he exclaimed.
He ran back to the mayor and demanded an explanation. The mayor however calmly explained to him the logistics behind a public water supply system and that the faucet only works if it is connected to a source of water.
The Chinuch (Mitzvah 84, Mishpatim) explains that one of the primary purposes of Shemittah is, in fact, to address our MENTALITY and to provide direction on what our proper MINDSET in life should be.
You see, one reason why we must leave our farms fallow for a full year, & cannot work them, explains the Chinuch, is to teach us that our food, farms, business, etc. is NOT a result of Kocho V’utzam Yadee. Rather, it’s all from Hashem and therefore it all rightfully belongs to Him, not us. We are like borrowers, and when we are told we can no longer work the land, we simply cannot.
Furthermore, by Hashem assuring us that even when we do our regular work during the 6th year, it will have a bountiful 3 year super crop (see 25: 21*) – despite us putting in our same efforts as any ordinary year - Hashem is teaching us that all SUCCESS and RESULTS are really from HIM. He, and He alone, runs every aspect of the world, and is the ONLY one in real control.
To connect to our parable - Hashem is the water line (the source of all Bracha and results), and our hishtadlus is the faucet - necessary to be in place, as this is what Hashem’s wisdom deemed appropriate, but not at all the PRODUCER nor the SOURCE of the results.
In truth, even our hishtadlus, such as our unique skillset, drives, opportunities, etc. are really all directly from Hashem as well.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that Hashem addresses our mentality in this week’s parshah regarding Shemittah seeming difficult and how we should not be worried. After all, a large component of the entire mitzvah is primarily to set our mentality straight regarding Shemittah itself, as well as regarding all material success in This World.
Shemittah, among many other things, is an eternal lesson in bitachon; in remembering that we are not in control of success nor do we truly own anything in This World, only Hashem is and does, and to therefore not to have any worries or fears. After all, Hashem owns it all, is the Ultimate Giver, and is in absolute control**.
This mentality of calmness - due to bitachone - is so important that the Torah addresses not just the mitzvah of Shemittah alone, but rather, the Torah addresses the importance of not even worrying during Shemittah as well (see 25: 20-22).
The calmness that bitachon can provide is a priceless gift***.
In today’s stressful society, where we are pulled in so many different directions and face so many worries and/or stressful tasks each and every day, bitachon is more necessary and can play more of a central role in our lives than ever before.
Moreover, perhaps more than ever before, we can appreciate what a priceless gift bitachon is, and take to heart that we don’t control the world - only Hashem does and He does everything with absolute brilliance, for our absolute benefit.
Few things, if any, can bring more peace of mind and happiness than internalizing this.
May we all merit to regularly think about this and to do so.
- The question in this week’s Dvar Torah was inspired by a question by R’ Mordechai Kamenetsky.
*- The Seforno explains that the Torah is teaching us that, during the 6th year, Hashem promises to ordain His bracha for us to such an extent that the prosperity will be plain enough to set our mind at ease.
Now, bear in mind that the Chazon Ish explains that the Torah does not mean to guarantee that everyone will be prosperous despite the restrictions of Shemittah. Rather, the Torah is assuring us that, contrary to those who see only the laws nature, it will not be automatic that those who do not work will have no food; there will be a general blessing upon Klal Yisroel who do observe these laws. However, as always, the sins of individuals can cause them to forfeit the bracha, and also, some may suffer because of the wicked actions of their neighbors (Chazon Ish, Shevi’is 18:4. See Artscroll Blue Stone edition).
**- Much as a servant of a powerful and benevolent king has no worries about their needs being met, neither should we.
***- In the words often said by R Asher Zelig Rubenstein (when giving his shiur on Chovos Ha’Levuvos shiur on sha’ar ha’Bitachone), “I’m going to make a statement that is vital to your life: Nobody on planet earth is happy unless they have bitachone. Money and fame cannot bring happiness; only bitachone can. It’s the only way. Bitachone applies to every aspect and facet of your life. You cannot reach shleiumus (perfection), considerable success in Torah, or achieve happiness without bitachone
[R’ Asher Zelig Rubenstein was a talmid of R’ Shach and of the famed mashgiach, R’ Yechezkel Leveninstein. He also developed a close connection with the Ponovitzer Rav, Rav Yosef Kahanaman. He became the Rosh Yeshiva of Toras Simcha in Yerushalayim].