This year in Israel we have an exciting mitzvah which has a noticeable
affect on our day-to-day existence, yet many of you outside of Israel
may hardly be aware of it. This new Jewish year, 5761, is a "Sabbatical"
year, the seventh in the cycle of years. "The seventh year is a
Sabbath of rest for The Land, a Sabbath unto G_d,... no sowing,... no
reaping... [Lev. 25:4-5]. There is also a cancelation ["shmitah"]
of certain debts.
(The stress on "a Sabbath unto G-d" is to anticipate
and refute the rationalist contention that this commandment is about
letting land lie fallow, rotating fields and crops, etc. The words "unto
G-d" show clearly that the Seventh Year is a "Sabbath"
of holiness, parallel to the holiness of the Seventh Day.)
Not only are we forbidden to plant or harvest the Land, there is no
doing business with the food that grows naturally either. So how do
farmers-and everyone else, for that matter-survive during seventh years?
No problem. As a reward for their compliance, G-d blesses the crops
of the sixth year so it produces enough for the sixth, seventh, and
part of the eighth. Moreover, there are Jews with so much faith it doesn't
even occur to them to worry! Their reward is that even a normal yield
in the sixth year satisfies all their needs until the crops of the eighth
year come in.
The distinctions are quite interesting, and if you want to get into
them you can research the verses [Lev. 25:18-22] with their commentaries.
For now, let's just consider the question itself, "What shall we
eat in the Seventh Year?" [Lev. 25:20].
Isn't it fascinating? Suddenly a wealthy farmer is asking the question
that is usually heard only from the poorest of the poor: "What
shall we eat?" Even though he realizes that the situation is only
temporary, and easy enough to resolve with proper doses of planning,
expertise in Torah law, and faith, still, there is that one moment of
panic. Hopefully, the memory of this feeling will forever sensitize
him to the suffering of his less fortunate poor brethren. Some even
say this is one of the purposes of the mitzvah!
I am convinced that if we would all inculcate this compassionate
outlook, we would immediately find ourselves enjoying the ultimate Sabbatical,
the thousand-year Shabbat Millennium period of total redemption and
bliss. A healthy, pleasant, satisfying and inspirational Shabbat
year to all!