Behar-Bechukosai (Letter of Courage)
I live in Eretz Yisroel and grow crops (i.e. farm) for a living. The Torah’s directive at the beginning of this week’s Parsha (Parshas Behar), to keep Shemita, is real and personal for me. Stop working. Trust in Hashem. And know that all will be alright. The Torah’s command is counter-intuitive. When we work and put in consummate effort we expect corresponding reward (i.e. I must sow for there to be a harvest); but the Torah is telling us that effort is illusory. With or without effort, all comes from Hashem.
The activity of planting seeds is a source of continuous amazement for me. The sprouting seed is beyond our comprehension. We bury an innate, non-living seed in soil. Moisten with water. The seed’s outer shell rots. The interaction of water with dormant amino acids stored within the seed sparks growth. A soft green shoot breaks through the hard dark soil to gather sunlight and grow. I never tire of seeing this wondrous phenomena, a testimony that there is an Abishter Feiring der Velt, a God running the world. The miraculous growth of a seed into a plant points to the Hand of the Creator. A Creator who runs His world with mercy and kindness. Just as Hashem can use our involvement to make crops grow; He can make crops grow without our involvement. The hardest part of Shemita year for farmers, is letting go.
Years ago I had the privilege of working in a recovery center for alcoholics. Alcoholics, and other addicts, must constantly let go of their need to fix and control the world around them, if not, they will likely return to alcohol. To help in letting go they’ve coined slogans: “Let go and Let God.” “God can do for me what I cannot do for myself.” “Give it over to God.” “God is my pilot. I’m just a passenger.” “One day at a time.” “Live and let live.” And the serenity prayer, “God, Give me the courage to accept the things I cannot change. The strength to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.”
Dr. Avraham Twerski writes of a time he attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. He arrived at the meeting in a lousy mood because something wasn’t quite right with his new car. The meeting was a “gratitude meeting.” Everyone in attendance spoke of something he or she was grateful for. By the time the last person was about to share, Dr. Twerski thought he could hear no more of it. Then, what the last speaker of the evening said, changed Dr. Twerski’s life, “Shortly after arriving in recovery I lost my job. Then the bank foreclosed on my house. Then my wife left me and took the kids with her. And today the bank took away my car. But one thing I know for certain, God hasn’t taken me this far to abandon me now.”
This is the lesson of Shemita: When Hashem tells us to let go, we let go. When Hashem tells us to walk away and have faith that all will turn out well, we walk away with faith that all will turn out well. Reb Levi Yitzchok Horowitz, The Bostoner Rebbe, zt”l, once encouraged me regarding a difficult situation advising, “Throw your lot in with the Abishter.” When Hashem tells us to rely on Him as the One and Only, and we do so, then we can rest assured of the blessing Hashem showers upon us at the beginning of Parshas Bechukosai,
“If you pursue My laws in order to Guard My commands and observe them, then I will give you rain at a convenient time, the Land will yield its produce, and, the trees of the field will produce fruit. You will be busy with threshing until grape-harvest, and the grape harvest will keep you busy until the sowing season. You will be satisfied with your bread, and you will live safely in your Land.”
Like a loving parent, sometimes Hashem wants our “partnership,” and other times He simply wants to nurture and care for us like a doting father. Let’s accept His embrace and allow Him to care for us.
Wishing you a content and satisfying Shabbos,