Don’t Worry, Be Happy!
“But in the seventh year… you shall not sow your field….” (Vayikrah 25:4)
There are times when a person is out-of-work and is worried how he will provide for his family. This was a real concern for the Jews who immigrated to the United States in the early 1900’s. They were told that they would be fired from their jobs if they would not work on Shabbos.
At the beginning of every seventh year, the Shmittah year, during the time of the Beis haMikdash, the Jewish people had the mitzvah of Hakhel. All the men women, and children had the mitzvah to listen to the king read a specific part of the Torah (Devorim 31:10-12). In this way, Shmittah was ushered in through Torah study. The Ibn Ezra explains that this Torah study should continue throughout the entire year of Shmittah (Devorim 31:12; Shmos 20:8). It seems from the Ibn Ezra that the purpose of Shmittah is the suspension of work to facilitate the study of Torah. Nowadays, we still have the mitzvah of Shmittah. During the year of Shmittah, there are many Israeli farmers who do not work their fields. Instead, they learn Torah the entire day.
Every seventh year, during Shmittah, Jews in the Land of Israel are not permitted to plant, prune, or do any work in their fields or vineyards. Their rights to the land are no greater than that of their servants or strangers. Anyone who wants, may eat the produce that grows in the field. The farmer may not lay ownership to the land, but he has the same right to eat from it as others.
The concept of Shmittah is to impress upon us that we own nothing! Everything that we have is from Hashem.
You may have a serious concern. If you can’t work your field, what will you eat the entire seventh year? True, you have equal access, as everyone else, to whatever grows on its own, but will that be enough? Furthermore, what will you eat in the eighth year? You must start planting at the end of the seventh year and it will take time for the crops to grow.
Rashi and the Sforno (25:19) address this concern. It is true that the amount of food that you will have will be minimal. However, Hashem will miraculously enable you to feel full and satisfied on the little that you do have to eat.
According to this explanation, the Torah’s next two psukim don’t seem to make sense. The Torah writes, “And should you ask, ‘What are we to eat in the seventh year, if we may neither sow nor gather in our crops?’ I will ordain My blessing for you in the sixth year, so that it shall yield a crop sufficient for three years… until its crops come in.” Don’t be concerned that since you didn’t work the field you will not have enough to eat in the seventh year. Hashem will bless your crops. The crops of the sixth year will be so bountiful that it will feed you in the sixth, seventh, and eighth year!
What does the Torah mean? What possible concern could you have? We already explained that there will be a blessing that your stomach will be satisfied even if you eat less. The Sforno explains Hashem’s promise that you will feel satisfied with little, won’t be enough to allay the concerns of some people. They will feel nervous and won’t feel total trust and confidence in Hashem. For those people, Hashem promises an added blessing, one that can clearly be seen! The sixth year will produce enough food to last for three years! Even if one has a little less faith in Hashem, he will see with his own eyes that he has stored enough food for three years. He won’t worry what he will have to eat and therefore, he will be able to keep the laws of Shmittah calmly. Look how much Hashem loves us and does extra to make all of us feel at ease.
The mitzvah of Shmittah helps us realize that Hashem is the source of our livelihood. If we are on a high level of faith, then we won’t have to be worried when Hashem tells us that we can’t work for a year. We know that Hashem will provide for us by our miraculously feeling satisfied even when eating a small amount. If we are not quite on that level, Hashem lovingly tells us not to worry. We will see the bumper crop of the sixth year, know we have plenty of food, and will not worry.
Hashem provides us with our needs whether or not we are working!