For six years farmers in the Holy Land work the land, until they let it go. Shmittah’s laws are numerous and complex, detailing the Torah way for living in Eretz Yisroel, incorporating cycles of seven years. Those culminate at the end of the seventh cycle in the 50th year as the Yovel, Jubilee Year. HaKadosh Baruch Hu tells Am Yisroel in Sefer VaYikra, Parshas Behar, “You may sow your field for six years, prune your vineyard, and gather the produce… In the seventh year there will be a Shabbat Shabbaton for the land, its own Shabbat to God.” The fields are not to be plowed and the vineyards can’t be pruned… There are also intricate laws regarding the absolution of loans between Jewish debtors and creditors, and other matters. In God’s omniscience and kindness, He answers man’s concerns before being asked; Later in Behar it states, “If you should say what will we eat in the seventh year? -Know then that I God will command my blessing for you in the sixth year -it will yield produce for three years.” We were told God will provide.
Shmittah means six years of manual work but the seventh year there is no more toiling… as the weekly cycle ends with Shabbos, or does it begin? Work for six days, but on the seventh observe a unique quality to the day, keep Shabbos as the Creator of The World Himself Created it, Shabbos Kodesh. Or is it we spend a day immersed in Dveykus, coming close to the Ribbono Shel Olam, so we may be elevated and spiritually prepared to enter into the mundane week ahead?
In Sefer Shmos, Parshas B’Shalach vividly describes what transpired while we were traveling in the Midbar. God provided our sustenance in the form of Manna. Moreover, we were commanded to collect double portions on the sixth day. No Manna would fall from the heavens on the seventh (day). We were told God will provide. There are various halachic opinions about properly observing Shmittah in our times. Rabbinic decrees are what we follow today since there is no Sanhedrin to guide us. This is one of the reasons given for why the Yovel (50th) year is not observed in our day.
What is the point of Shmittah anyway? Does it really matter if we keep it? Does it apply to us now? What happens when the land lies fallow? How will the farmers have sustenance? What will happen to the agricultural and larger society? Perhaps we feel more vulnerable than at other times when we do work, (and debts are collected…)
It’s all about Emunah and Bitachon, a fundamental principle of being faithful.
It has become commonplace to slip into the illusion that what we have is by the work of our own hands. Counting the hours spent at work, the effort exerted, and figuring the dividends, how is it not ours? Within the principles of Shmittah and Yovel, we are given the blessing of knowing our Father in heaven is watching over us and caring for us. God will provide. Haven’t we learned that yet? Every Shabbos we eat Lechem Mishneh, Two Loaves of Challah, reenacting the bracha bestowed upon us when we received extra Manna portions from Shamayim on the sixth day of every week as we traveled the Midbar. Eretz Yisroel is a precious treasure wherein we once felt God’s immediate Shechina, His holy Presence, in the Beis HaMikdash. Throughout the Torah, God reiterates to Bnei Yisroel that when we observe His Mitzvos and care for the Holy Land it will bring forth produce and blessings. It’s the Land of Milk and Honey. Shmittah reminds us in a very real (down to earth) way, that indeed the land is HaShem’s and He has given it to us to possess, provided we keep His Mitzvos. We always have to trust in Him.
I remember only too well Danny’s 7th Yahrzeit zt’l. It was no ordinary marking of the passage of time. Seven years. Seven.
My dear brother Danny zt’l was niftar on the 27th of Elul, 5768 on Shabbos Kodesh, as a pure neshama. He desired to have the purest Dveykus with his Creator, by being buried in Eretz HaKodesh.
Ani Maamin, I Believe, though in my human heart it is incomprehensible, that our Heavenly Father wanted him Home. Danny knew the value of life, he understood and accepted that all comes from the One Above, not from his own hands. He lived as a servant of God.
My heart always has a Yizkor candle in it for you Danny.
You give me light when there is darkness.
You show me strength when I am weak.
You hold me up when I stumble.
I am a believer in Hashgacha Pratis, Divine Providence. I would like to share with you excerpts from the very first letter I ever wrote after Danny was niftar, zt’l, which I found when writing about him on his 7th Yahrzeit:
It just doesn’t seem real to me. Mom and Dad shared the flight to Eretz Yisroel with me. I am here. I saw with my eyes and watched everything. I cupped the dirt into my hands and put it on his kever. Family and friends came from all over to grieve and comfort us at the Levaya. It’s still so not real to me somehow. Few people came to Shiva though, being so close to Rosh HaShana. Rabbi Riskin came, that made it seem more like Shiva for me anyway, since I don’t know anyone else here except my mishpacha. Shiva was so short that it was very awkward… We actually were told to stop Shiva, to begin preparing for Rosh HaShana. Yom Tov was not the same of course for obvious reasons. It’s hard to be away from my own family. When I went to shul with Mom a flood of memories came to me when I heard Shofar, since Danny a’h used to blow Shofar for people who couldn’t leave home. He blew it for me too sometimes. Without exaggerating, wow the clear, deep, and strong sound he could make come out of that Shofar was nothing short of inspirational. My Mom remembers her father being the Ba’al Tekiah. He was my Zayde (Yaakov) Lowenthal a’h, whose Hebrew name Danny added to his own when his health really turned for the worse. According to Mom, Zayde’s Shofar blowing was clean and grew stronger as he blew. Zayde not only blew Shofar though, he in fact made his own Shofarot from the horns he had when he did Shechita! (He even carved chess pieces* from horn too, awesome handiwork!) These are the memories that we’ll hold onto dearly.
Seven years later, and I “found” this about Danny a’h, united with the Holy soil of Eretz Yisroel. Danny was only 49, he did not live to see his Yovel year.
Danny is always with me. Behar-Bechukotai especially stirs memories for me, of a man who put his complete trust in God. He knew God will provide.
L’ilui Nishmas my dear brother Danny, Yaakov Chanan Dov, z’l, ben Yosef Mordechai haLevi
With Brachos of realizing all we have comes from God,